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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first, I thank the Senator from California for her passionate advocacy and standing up for all of us, the women of this country. She is a mom, as she said. I, too, am a mom. As hard as it is for me to believe, I am also a grandmother with wonderful 2-year-old Lily and a little grandson Walter, who was born on his daddy's--my son's--birthday in August. Obviously, they are the light of my life, as well.
One of the reasons I feel so passionate about the broader bill on health care reform is that this is about extending coverage to babies so they can be born healthy, and about prenatal care; it is about making sure that in the new insurance exchange we have basic coverage for maternity care. I was shocked to learn that 60 percent of the insurance policies offered right now in the individual market don't offer maternity care as basic care. We happen to think that is incredibly important. We are 29th in the world in the number of babies--below Third World countries--that survive the first year of life. This health care reform bill is about making sure we have healthy babies, healthy moms, and it is about saving lives and moving forward in a way that is positive, expanding coverage, not taking away important coverage for women who, frankly, find themselves in a crisis situation.
That is what we are doing, unfortunately, through the Nelson-Hatch amendment. I have great respect for both of my colleagues who have offered this amendment, and for others who feel deeply about this issue. In the bill that has come before us, I think we respect all sides and keep in place the longstanding ban on Federal funding for abortion services, and no one is objecting to that. No one is trying to change that.
As my friends have said, this is about whether we cross that line into private insurance coverage--whether we say to a woman, to a family: You are going to have to decide whether, when you have a child and you are having a crisis in the third trimester and might need some kind of crisis abortion services--whether you are going to find yourself in a situation where you are going to need abortion services, and you are going to have to publicly indicate that and buy a rider on insurance because you can't use your own money to buy an insurance policy.
Here is what we know now. We know five States have riders right now--Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Missouri, and North Dakota. There is no evidence there are any riders available in the individual market. So even though, technically, they say you can buy additional coverage, it is not offered or available. We are told by the insurance carriers that, in fact, it probably will not be available.
We all know what this is about. This is about effectively banning abortion services coverage in the new insurance exchange we are setting up, which could, in fact, have a broader implication of eliminating the coverage for health plans outside the exchanges. So that is what this is about, which is why it is so important.
Again, we are agreeing on the elimination or banning of Federal funding for abortions, other than extreme crises circumstances. We have done that in Federal law. This is about whether we go on to essentially create a situation where effectively people cannot get that coverage with their own money.
The Center for American Progress noted that because approximately 86 percent of the people who are going to be offered new opportunities for insurance--small businesses, individuals, in the private market--that because 86 percent of them will, in fact, receive some kind of tax credit or tax cut, in fact, again, we are talking about eliminating this option altogether because the majority of people will get some kind of a tax cut during this process.
I think there are also some broader implications around the tax policy. If we are saying that someone can't purchase an insurance policy of their liking if they are getting a tax credit to help with health insurance, the fact is, what about other tax credits? What about other kinds of ways in which people get tax credits or tax cuts today? The implications of this are extremely broad.
I urge a ``no'' vote. Let's keep Federal policy in place that doesn't allow Federal funding for abortion but respects the women of this country.
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