The battle over a woman’s right to choose was front and center on Wednesday as the U.S. House of Representatives took up H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act, to amend rules established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009. Women’s rights advocates and healthcare providers view the amendment to the current law as “a radical assault on women’s healthcare and an attack on women’s liberty.”
In a conference call with reporters, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy expressed his frustration as a pro-choice advocate in Congress. The bill establishes that “any health care plan that receives tax credits through the healthcare reform bill would be prevented from offering abortions or reproductive healthcare services,” Murphy said. “Even if the plan itself only accepts one woman who has a healthcare tax credit, it cannot offer reproductive services to anyone on the health plan.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provided women with the right to receive an abortion, but states “no federal dollars may be used to pay for an abortion.” This bill helped insure 20 million uninsured Americans by giving them a tax credit. With this credit they could purchase private insurance on an insurance exchange.
The new legislation would further restrict a woman’s right to choose by not allowing women who receive this tax credit to buy insurance if that plan provides for abortion coverage.
“This legislation is not about prohibiting the use of Federal funds,” Murphy said. “This legislation is about prohibiting millions of women from purchasing plans that cover abortions with their own dollars.”
An additional clause to the bill, states Murphy, is a “conscience clause” that would allow hospitals associated with certain religious affiliations to provide care based on their religious beliefs. “This legislation would allow those hospitals to deny healthcare services to a women walking into their door even if it meant that woman would die,” said Murphy.
“This bill is an omnibus of terrible ideas,” Susan Yolen, vice president of public affairs and communications for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said. She took exception to this bill’s proposed attack on a woman’s right to choose and its proposed effects on Planned Parenthood. “We at Planned Parenthood have been the victim of the ire that we are talking about today,” she said.
“Let’s be clear here. Women’s lives are at stake,” Christian Miron of Pro-Choice Connecticut said.
“We believe in a women’s right to consult with her doctor in making a personal and private decision that is right for her and her family,” he said. “What is most egregious is that this bill would allow hospitals to deny abortion care to women who would die without it.”
As an attempt by pro-life advocates to reduce the effectiveness of the 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade, Miron feels “this agenda is out of touch with our nation’s values and priorities, and the values and priorities we have in Connecticut.”