Despite the fact that only a small minority (18 percent) of Americans favor full or even partial repeal of the health care law, House Republicans are moving ahead with a scheduled vote on a bill to repeal the law. In a poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, 45 percent of Americans responded that they support the new health reform law, while another 17 percent take a "wait and see" perspective. According to the poll, a majority of those who oppose the health care law say it will "kill jobs," having clearly absorbed the unsubstantiated headline of Republican talking points. Others say it will add to the deficit. Still others feel, of course, that to assure all Americans have access to health care is the equivalent of a quick descent into post-capitalist socialism. What no one said, however, was that the health reform law offered women too many "choices" when it comes to abortion coverage or other health care related services.
Still, House leaders are moving ahead and some are saying that this is precisely their goal - to continue attacking abortion access via this vote on the health reform law. NARAL Pro-Choice America notes on its' blog today,
Two recent news reports confirm that the new anti-choice House leadership will use this vote to set up future attacks on abortion coverage and other reproductive-health care.
Fox News and The Hill are reporting that new restrictions on access to abortion care are a priority for the new House leadership. Both articles quote Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America: It seems clear to us that the new House leadership is threatening a whole series of attacks on reproductive rights.
And though anti-contraception, anti-choice House Republicans may be using the vote to further attack reproductive health care, we know two things. First, Republican leadership in the states are already using the law to chip away at women's health care access and rights. And, secondly, the law is already producing benefits for many women - benefits that will be stripped if Republicans get their way. From removing pre-existing condition clauses which allowed health insurance companies to refuse coverage to pregnant women or women who have had a c-section, for example, to including basic coverage of preventive care including breast exams, immunizations and contraception, the health reform law addresses major health issues for women of all ages.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of American said of the potential repeal,
“The new law will expand access to health insurance for millions of women, and it also includes measures to make primary health care, including annual exams, preventive care, and reproductive care, more affordable...The law will also increase access to contraception for women, and potentially allow for all FDA-approved prescription contraception to be available without co-pays and other out of pocket costs.
“In addition, the ACA will put an end to discriminatory practices such as routinely charging women higher premiums than men, and denying coverage for so-called “pre-existing” conditions such as breast cancer or even pregnancy.
“Given the enormous benefit of the new law for women, the House leadership’s proposal to repeal it would have a devastating impact on American women and their access to affordable, quality health care. Our health care system has too often required women to pay more than men for coverage while receiving less care. Repealing the new law would disproportionately punish women by undermining their access to health care, while hitting them hard in their pocketbooks."
The fact is that while women's groups fought long and hard against certain parts of the health reform law, namely the Nelson amendment which places many restrictions on abortion coverage in the state health exchanges, the law offers much more than it restricts.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductivce Health is urging its supporters to sign a petition to Congress, which reminds people that the Affordable Care Act:
"included a number of provisions that would greatly benefit Latinas, including: $1 billion in funding for Community Health Centers, a critical source of care for Latinas and our families; and...Guarantees women's preventive services such as mammograms, and Pap smears (provided free of cost)."
The Center for Reproductive Rights called on House members to vote no on the health care law repeal act, acknowledging the positive and negative pieces of the law,
“...While we certainly criticized the law during last year’s debate for its backsliding on access to abortion services, a reversal of the legislation would remove important protections for women’s health and set the stage for more retrograde reforms in the future.
“On the one hand, the Nelson Amendment was a significant setback for women, imposing a convoluted payment system for abortion coverage that needlessly burdens insurers and discourages them from offering coverage at all. At the same time, repeal of the healthcare law would deprive millions of women and their families critical provisions that will safeguard their health. Among other provisions, the law eliminates the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men; provides families with options for affordable insurance coverage; ends the exclusion of cesarean sections as a pre-existing condition; and expands coverage for women’s health by holding out a promise of increased access to contraception without co-pays."
The Department of Health and Human Services also released a report today which highlights the huge impact parts of the health reform law has on the lives of millions of Americans:
"...without the Affordable Care Act, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition, like heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis or cancer, would be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether."
The White House, for its part, doesn't seem too concerned.
The National Women's Law Center is equally as concerned for women of all ages. Not only will young women be hurt by a repeal given young people up to age 26 are now able to remain on their parent's insurance plan, but women of child bearing age would lose the guaranteed maternity care coverage, prescription drug coverage and older women's coverage will be affected as well,
"Older women will benefit from a provision which closes the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” or the coverage gap that requires seniors to spend a considerable amount out-of-pocket for prescription drugs. In 2007, 64% of the Medicare beneficiaries that were affected by the “donut hole” were women."
Even if the House passes the bill, Senator Reid has said the Senate will not take it up. Still anti-choice Republicans are using this as a way to unleash their attacks on reproductive rights both in the states and through various measures contained within the health reform law. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, this seems to be the opening song to a painful performance of attacks on women's health in 2011.