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Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of health care reform and on behalf of greater access to health care for all Americans. This weekend, the House took a historic step, passing a health care reform bill that ensures affordable, quality care for all, including a public plan that will bring real competition to the market and drive down costs. Passing this bill in the House represents a monumental step toward the goal of achieving meaningful reform this year and is the furthest we have come in the decades-long fight for health care reform in this country.
However, there is one aspect of the House bill about which I wish to voice my strong disagreement--the Stupak-Pitts amendment.
While proponents of the measure say this is a continuation of current Federal law, this amendment will, in fact, bring about significant change and dramatically limit reproductive health care in this country. This is government invading the personal lives of many Americans, establishing, for the first time, restrictions on people who pay for their own private health insurance. We all agree it is important to reduce abortions in this country and I have and will continue to work on many ways to reduce unintended pregnancies and to promote adoption. However, the Stupak amendment prohibits the public plan as well as private plans offered through the exchange, if they accept any subsidized customers, from covering abortion services, effectively banning abortion coverage in all health insurance plans in the new system, whether they be public or private. This ban puts the health of women and young girls at grave risk.
Proposing that women instead purchase a separate abortion rider is not only discriminatory but ridiculous. It would require women to essentially plan for an event that occurs in the most unplanned and sometimes emergency situations.
There are currently five States that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, and in these five States it is nearly impossible to find such a private insurance policy. In one State, North Dakota, one insurance company holds 91 percent of the State's health insurance market and refuses to even offer such a rider. A lack of access to full reproductive health care puts the lives of women and girls at grave risk.
This anti-choice measure poses greater restriction on low-income women and those who are more likely to receive some kind of subsidy and less likely to be able to afford a supplemental insurance policy. Denying low-income women reproductive coverage in this way is discriminatory and dangerous.
Without proper coverage, women will be forced to postpone care while attempting to find the money they need to pay for it--a delay that can lead to increased costs and graver health risks, particularly for younger girls, or these women will be forced to turn to dangerous, back-alley providers. Women and girls deserve better.
In fact, this amendment represents the only place in the entire health care bill where the opponents are actually correct: It limits access to medical care by giving the government, not the patient and the doctor, the power to make medical decisions.
The Senate bill already ensures that no Federal tax dollars may be used to pay for reproductive services in any public or private insurance plan beyond cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. The House language goes much further and should be removed from the final bill.
This health care package must move us forward, toward quality, affordable health care for all Americans. I ask my colleagues to oppose any similar amendment in the Senate and work to end disparities among race and gender in our health care system.
Thank you. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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