Today Congresswoman Lois Capps applauded the U.S. Senate's vote to reject the anti-women's health and women's rights amendment introduced yesterday by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The amendment was defeated by a vote of 54 to 45. Capps asserted that the amendment would have marked a significant step back for women's health by essentially barring coverage of abortion services in the new health insurance Exchange where millions of Americans will soon purchase their health insurance. The Nelson/Hatch amendment was modeled on the Stupak amendment included in the House health reform bill passed last month.
"I am pleased that my colleagues in the Senate voted to oppose the restrictive Nelson/Hatch amendment and maintained the current commonsense compromise approach on abortion services in the health insurance reform bill," said Capps. "This amendment was far too extreme, going well beyond current law to deny private health insurance coverage of abortion services in the U.S. Its adoption would have meant more women would have their reproductive health choices made by politicians and anti-choice zealots in Washington, DC instead of by themselves and their doctors. As I have said time and again - comprehensive health insurance reform legislation is not the place to be re-debating federal abortion policy, nor is it the place to dramatically expand or contract access to abortion services. The Senate's current approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill. This compromise approach ensures that federal funds do not pay for abortions but allows continued access to this legal medical procedure."
The Nelson/Hatch amendment mirrors the Stupak amendment, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 7, 2009. The Nelson/Hatch amendment, like the Stupak amendment, would have placed new restrictions on women's access to abortion coverage by prohibiting the use of federal funds from covering any part of the costs of any health care plan that includes coverage of abortion. It would also force women seeking insurance coverage for abortion care to purchase such coverage through a "rider," a supplemental policy that would only cover abortion. While the majority of private health insurance plans currently offer abortion coverage, the Nelson/Hatch amendment would result in the elimination of abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchange. A study conducted by The George Washington University and insurance industry experts have concluded that because of the restrictions imposed by the Stupak/Nelson amendment, it is unlikely insurance companies would offer health plans in the exchange that cover abortion.