Health Care Reform and the Abortion Question

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) ensures that all American citizens have access to quality, affordable healthcare and will bring an end to the fraud, waste and abuse of the healthcare insurance industry. It increases eligibility for Medicaid, reduces healthcare differences in low-income minority populations and prevents insurance companies from refusing coverage based on pre-existing conditions, health status and gender. The Affordable Care Act also promotes preventative healthcare to help Americans live longer, healthier lives, which can ultimately restrain the growth of healthcare over time.  The new law, however, has a few other provisions that are currently the subject of much heated political debate.

The Hyde Amendment is a long-standing statutory restriction against the use of Federal funding to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the life of the mother. It is not a permanent law; rather it is a “rider” that has been routinely attached to annual appropriations since it was first passed in 1976. The Affordable Care Act essentially preserves the principle of the Hyde Amendment by requiring people to create a separate unsubsidized fund to pay for abortion services. Essentially, State insurance commissioners are charged with policing the “segregation of funds.” Each State has the ultimate authority to determine whether an insurance company can offer abortion coverage. Republican representatives do not believe this is enough and so are gearing up for an aggressive fight with the Democrats.

On January 20, 2011, just hours after the House Republicans voted to repeal the new health care reform law, the Republicans introduced their anti-abortion bill. The No Tax-Payer Funding for Abortion Act seeks to codify the Hyde Amendment. Specifically, the bill prohibits both direct and indirect abortion funding by the government to healthcare providers and makes abortion extremely difficult to obtain, without actually criminalizing it.

When asked why House Republicans were making the abortion issue a top priority, House Speaker John Boehner replied, “Our members feel very strongly about the sanctity of human life. We listened to the American people, we made a commitment to the American people in our Pledge to America and we’re continuing to fulfill our commitment.” Unfortunately, that commitment seems to ignore the sanctity of a woman’s body. The proposed bill not only eliminates private insurance for reproductive health, it also increases government control over a woman’s reproductive decision-making process. Those involved on both sides of the abortion issue recognize that this is a high priority, not only because of the attention given by Republicans, but also because of the influx of anti-abortion members to Congress into both the House and the Senate.

The Affordable Care Act also faces constitutional challenges. No one disputes that Congress can regulate the healthcare market; the issue is that the new healthcare law requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Defenders of the law say that the government has a duty to protect Americans from ruthless insurance companies that refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions or charge exorbitant amounts for individual coverage. Opponents of the law argue that any exercise of power must be within the confines of the Constitutional authority provided to Congress. Recently, a Florida federal district court concluded that Congress does not have the right to regulate and tax a person’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Regardless of what side of the debate you are on, everyone agrees that something must be done about the healthcare system in this country. One question that remains to be answered is, not “what” needs to be done, but rather “how” can it be done. This is not an issue that should be decided by Democrats, Republicans or federal district court judges — as the interpreter of the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court is ultimately tasked with the decision of how the government can give all Americans access to unbiased healthcare.

Written by:  Shantel James

WET MagazineHealth Care Reform and the Abortion Question

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