In an unprecedented and devastating blow to abortion access in the United States, the House soundly approved (240-194) an amendment to the health care insurance reform bill that basically ensures that all women obtaining insurance through the new insurance exchange will not have coverage for an abortion procedure. The impact of the provision lobbied for by the Catholic Bishops goes far beyond the long-standing (and harmful) Hyde amendment which denies federal funding for most abortions since 1976, effectively eliminating the possibility of abortion coverage in an insurance policy. This vile provision starts with blocking any women who receive a subsidy to help purchase insurance from buying an insurance plan that would provide abortion services if she needed that care. The ripple effect is that plans which previously did cover abortion services would not do so, so that they still have the potential of gaining the new customers that are receiving the new subsidy. But further, that means that anyone who previously privately paid for that plan will find that it no longer covers abortion services. This amendment – spearheaded by anti-choice Democrat Bart Stupak – is the most far reaching limitation on abortion access to occur in a generation.
While there are many more steps in the health care insurance reform debate in the Congress – especially since the final bill only had a 5 vote margin of victory in the House and the Senate is struggling through various proposals – it will be an uphill climb to pass anything by both houses that does not include the damaging Stupak amendment.