House Republicans Continue Their Assault on Women’s Health

Posted on by Karina

House Democrats believe we should be spending time on jobs legislation–like the American Jobs Act to create 1.9 million jobs or the bipartisan China currency legislation to create more than 1 million jobs. Instead, House Republicans are pursuing their ideological agenda bringing H.R. 358 to the House floor today–an unprecedented and dangerous assault on women’s access to health care. The legislation:

Restricts, for the first time, how millions of women with private insurance can spend their own private dollars in purchasing health insurance.
Beginning in 2014, H.R. 358 prohibits the millions of women and their families who are in the Health Exchanges and are receiving federal subsidies from purchasing any health plan that includes a full range of reproductive health services (even if they are using their own private dollars to purchase the portion of coverage relating to abortions). This prohibition will affect most women in the Exchanges, since a large majority will be receiving subsidies. It is unlikely that insurers would then even offer policies with a full range of reproductive health services.

Undermines the unqualified right to emergency treatment for women with life-threatening conditions.
H.R. 358 has very troubling provisions regarding access to emergency treatment. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), enacted in 1986, requires hospitals participating in Medicare to stabilize those with emergency medical conditions and treat them or transfer them to an appropriate facility. EMTALA does not recognize any exceptions to these requirements. H.R. 358 inserts language appearing to allow placing conscience-clause concerns above the emergency treatment requirements of EMTALA. This is of serious concern. On occasion, there are medical conditions that occur during pregnancy in which termination of the pregnancy is the only response that will save the woman’s life. For example, in May 2010, a nun who was an administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix was rebuked and reassigned for authorizing an abortion for a pregnant woman with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension in order to save her life.

Attacks the compromise contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on abortion.
The ACA is consistent with long-standing federal law prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortion (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered). The ACA requires two separate premium payments for those women and families who receive federal subsidies and choose health coverage that includes a full range of reproductive health services and is very clear–no portion of federal subsidies may be used to pay for the portion of comprehensive health coverage that is purchased in state exchanges that relates to abortion. The compromise was endorsed by such pro-life groups as the Catholic Health Association.

Would likely shut down private insurance market for the full range of reproductive health services for the millions of women in the Exchanges.
The net effect of H.R. 358’s provisions would likely be to shut down the private market for the full range of reproductive health services for women in the Exchanges. It’s likely insurers won’t offer any health plans that include abortion coverage to those in the Exchanges, since the majority of families would be prohibited from purchasing them. It is also likely insurers wouldn’t offer separate abortion coverage (so-called “rider” policies) because the experience in the states where these “rider” policies have been offered has shown that the market for them is not viable. Indeed, a number of experts have predicted that, if this GOP bill were enacted, there would be no option for women and their families to purchase a full range of reproductive health services in the Exchanges.

Provides broad protection to state “Conscience Protection” laws having nothing to do with abortion.
The Affordable Care Act protects state “conscience protection” laws regarding abortion – ensuring that nothing in the Affordable Care Act pre-empts these laws. However, H.R. 358 goes much further – it appears to protect any state “conscience protection” law a state might pass, such as ones dealing with family planning services. Indeed, in the committee markup, Rep. Jan Schakowsky offered an amendment to stipulate that the conscience protections referred only to abortion but it was defeated by the Republicans.

Leader Pelosi spoke in strong opposition to the legislation, explaining that under this bill “women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene”:

Under this bill—when the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling. It falls right into their—it’s a health issue. This is a health issue. And it falls right in there with a lot of other initiatives that they had coming up on the floor about clean air, clean water, mercury, you name it. America’s families deserve better than this. And, again, today is another example of a wasted opportunity instead of taking up even an aspect of the President’s jobs bill that could create jobs. I can’t even describe to you the logic of what it is that they are doing. I just know that you’ll see a large number of women on the floor today fighting for women’s health issues as well as to point out how savage this is about withholding care for a woman because of this legislation.

Video highlights of House Democrats in opposition from the debate on the rule this morning:

The rule passed by a vote of 248-173 and the vote on the final bill will occur around 7pm EDT tonight.

UPDATE: H.R. 358 passed by a vote of 251-172. @NancyPelosi:
Bills passed to create #jobs today: 0 Bills passed assaulting women’s health today: 1 #HR358

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