Abortion Could Prove Divisive For Health Reform, Too
An ultimatum against using federal money for abortion procedures could reopen the politically treacherous rift over the issue, creating yet another obstacle for congressional Democrats to overcome if they are to achieve their health reform goals, Time reports. "While current versions of the [health reform] legislation do not address the abortion issue at all, late last month 19 anti-abortion Democrats in the House sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warning 'we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.'"
Congress banned spending federal Medicaid dollars on abortions in 1976, and all but 17 states banned paying for the procedures with state Medicaid funds, too. However, as many as 90 percent of private insurers do pay for abortions and the restrictions the legislators are demanding could compromise those benefits. Under one proposal, individuals earning up to $43,000 a year who get subsidies to buy insurance could not purchase a policy that has abortion coverage. "And it would raise all sorts of other questions if insurers were allowed to discriminate among their customers based on whether or not they are using federal dollars to pay for their policies," Time reports.
"Abortion rights advocacy groups are pushing back. On Monday, the National Women's Law Center released a poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted by the Mellman Group indicating that 71% favor including reproductive services such as birth control and abortion as part of health reform," Time reports. "The poll also found that 75% believe an independent commission should determine what medical services are covered among the basic benefits offered under health reform" (Tumulty, 7/8).