The Congressional War on Women Continues
Federal and state legislators are focusing their anti-abortion agenda on middle-income women who want to use their own money to buy insurance that covers abortion services. These measures ultimately incentivize “…insurers in the state marketplaces to drop abortion coverage, making it unavailable even for women who pay their own premiums.”
The House GOP is backing extreme legislative measures designed to phase out abortion coverage in all private insurance plans by eliminating all tax benefits employers receive if they provide abortion coverage in their health care plans for their employees. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act introduced in the House in January is the most offensive and direct attack on abortion access in private insurance plans covered under Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to a Guttmacher Institute study “…87% of typical employer-based insurance policies in 2002 covered medically necessary or appropriate abortions.”
During the hearing on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “…the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee’s chief of staff Thomas Barthold testified that because the bill bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion ‘fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions’.” Furthermore, “…a woman would have to give ‘contemporaneous written documentation’ that it was ‘incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger’ that compelled her abortion…[and]… parents could face IRS questions about whether they spent pre-tax money from health savings accounts on abortions for their kids.” That’s right, this legislation could lead to deputizing IRS agents as “abortion cops”.
Yesterday a House panel voted along party lines to approve an anti-choice measure that would prevent women from deducting the cost of abortion care as a medical expense from their taxable income. This bill is supported by GOP leaders in the House, but will come against stronger opposition in the Senate.
As the U.S. Senate and House continue their budget negotiations, NPR looks at the full spectrum of health care services jeopardized by anti-choice politicians’ efforts to eliminate the Title X family planning program.
On March 24, 60 pro-choice activists rallied outside of Rep. Dave Reichert’s Mercer Island office in response to his latest vote to defund Planned Parenthood. They also delivered petition signatures against the congressional War on Women. Check out some coverage here and here.
States Enacting Legislation to Eliminate Abortion Coverage from Private Insurance Plans
“Federal law bars federal employees from selecting a health-care plan that provides abortion coverage. Retired and current military personnel and their dependents also are prohibited from obtaining coverage for abortion care through military health plans, even if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.” Meanwhile at the state level, NARAL Pro-Choice America reports:
- 13 states prohibit abortion coverage for state employees: AZ, AR, CO, IL, KY, MA, MS, NE, OH, PA, RI, SC, and VA.
- 6 states prohibit abortion coverage in the private insurance market: ID, KY, MO, ND, OK, and RI.
- 5 states prohibit abortion coverage in state insurance exchanges: AZ, LA, MS, MO, TN.
- 9 states have insurance bans that allow consumers to purchase abortion coverage only through a separate rider: ID, KY, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, RI, and WI.
Onslaught of Anti-Choice State Legislation Becoming Even More Extreme
NARAL Pro-Choice America reports that last year 174 anti-abortion bills were introduced in state legislatures throughout the country. So far, this year, 351 anti-abortion bills have been introduced in the state legislatures.
Legislation recently passed in South Dakota and Arizona and two proposed bills in Kansas and Iowa represent some of the more extreme anti-choice measures surfacing throughout the country.
South Dakota now has the longest waiting period in the country for a woman to get an abortion: 72 hours. The newly enacted law also mandates that all women seeking abortions, even rape and incest victims, must first be “counseled” by a so-called crisis pregnancy center or limited service pregnancy center. This is the first law in the nation that would require women seeking abortions to submit to forced counseling with biased, medically-inaccurate information. The law will likely face a court challenge and “[b]oth sides in the debate are pretty sure this particular law is likely to be found unconstitutional by the current Supreme Court, even if one side is loathe to admit it publicly.”
South Dakota’s extreme stance on abortion access for low-income women is equally oppressive. South Dakota only allows the use of Medicaid to pay for abortions when the life of the woman is at risk. In South Dakota a victim of rape or incest cannot access Medicaid dollars to pay for an abortion. Now Iowa is following suit and seeking to limit Medicaid dollars solely for when the life of the woman is jeopardized, eliminating exceptions for rape and incest survivors.
Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona just signed a law that “…makes the state the first in the nation to outlaw abortions performed on the basis of the race or gender of the fetus.” The law would impose felony charges on any doctor or medical professional “…if they could be shown to have performed abortions for the purposes of helping parents select their offspring on the basis of gender or race. The women having such abortions would not be penalized.” Planned Parenthood in Arizona has condemned the law stating that it “…creates a highly unusual requirement that women state publicly their reason for choosing to terminate a pregnancy — a private decision they already made with their physician, partner and family…”
And in Kansas “[a] bill to strictly limit abortions after 22 weeks based on disputed research that fetuses can feel pain is on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback…” Governor Brownback has stated he will sign the law.