In an attempt to keep health reform from being torpedoed by the ever-contentious topic of abortion, advocates and opponents of abortion rights were expected to agree that legislation would preserve the “status quo” on abortion law and not be used to advance or restrict abortion rights. Unfortunately, fights erupted over different definitions of the status quo and how to apply it to a reformed health insurance system, and the health care debate quickly became embroiled in abortion politics anyway.
Ultimately, both the House of Representatives and the Senate adopted measures that shift the status quo away from abortion access. The House passed a provision known as the Stupak Amendment, named for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), which would virtually eliminate insurance coverage for abortion services from the new insurance market by prohibiting people from purchasing such coverage if they receive federal assistance for their premiums. The Senate went with slightly more moderate but still restrictive language, offered by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), that would allow people receiving subsidies to purchase abortion-inclusive coverage only if they pay with two separate private premiums every month—one for abortion-related coverage and one for all other services.
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Director, Women's Health & Rights Program