Cross-posted on NWLC’s blog, Womenstake.
Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first business meeting of the year to consider H.R. 358, the misnamed Protect Life Act, that would prevent women from using even their own private funds to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion and would significantly expand refusal calls that allow women to be denied treatment, even in circumstances where their health or lives are in jeopardy.
During the debate, members of the Committee finally admitted what we knew to be true: hidden under the cloak of so-called "taxpayer funding for abortion," H.R. 358 allows states to deny insurance coverage of birth control.
That's right: the Pitts bill is part of the war on contraception that's being waged by House Republican leaders. They're pushing a spending plan that eliminates the Title X family planning program, which for forty years has provided contraceptives and other basic preventive health care to women in need. They're trying to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of contraceptive care. They are trying to prevent states from even exercising an option to expand contraceptive coverage under state Medicaid programs. And now, they are allowing states to deny women coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act included, as part of the compromise on abortion, a provision that made clear that nothing in the health care law would preempt state laws on abortion. H.R. 358 expands this provision, preventing the new health care law from preempting any state law - now or in the future - that has to do with "conscience rights." The Energy and Commerce Committee counsel admitted today that this provision goes WAY beyond abortion. In fact, it gives states carte blanche to undo, in the name of “conscience,” almost any federal requirement in the Affordable Care Act.
This loophole means that, under H.R. 358, a state could exempt any insurance plan from a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that insurance plans cover birth control or any other essential health benefits if complying is against its - the health insurance plan's -- "moral convictions."
The Affordable Care Act may finally mean that all new health insurance plans will cover contraceptives. And now, under the cloak of "taxpayer funded abortion," members of the Energy and Commerce Committee admitted today that the bill would allow states to opt-out of this guarantee.
House Republican leaders have decided to wage war on contraceptives. They're out of touch with American women. It's up to us to stop them.