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Public Statements

Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I rise today in strong opposition to an amendment that has been offered by my distinguished colleague from Nebraska.

There has been a lot of misinformation about what the health care bill we are debating would mean for women and for reproductive rights. So let me please set the record straight.

The underlying legislation before us maintains a historic compromise we have had in this country by barring the use of Federal funds for the full range of reproductive services, except in cases of rape, incest, and to save a woman's life. That is the current law of the land, and the Senate bill goes to great lengths to maintain current Federal law.

The legislation would segregate private funds from public funds, so only a person's private money will contribute to their reproductive coverage. This is not an accounting gimmick, as some critics have falsely charged. In fact, this kind of arrangement is often used when public funds are given to parochial schools or other religious institutions to maintain a separation of church and state.

The Senate version would also require that at least one plan within the health insurance exchange offer a plan that covers reproductive services and one that does not. It would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to audit any and all plans to make absolutely certain abortion is not being paid for with Federal dollars. This arrangement is squarely in line with the historic compromise we have had in this country for 30 years that keeps Federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

As we debate the solution to the deepening health care crisis that has affected every citizen, business, and community in the country, this is not the time nor the place to instigate a new battle over reproductive rights and reproductive freedoms. Families and businesses that are getting buried under the weight of the current cost of health care deserve much better.

Proponents of the Stupak-Pitts amendment claim this is a continuation of current Federal law, but that is simply false. This proposal goes far beyond Federal law and will, in fact, bring about significant change and dramatic new limitations on reproductive access in this country. It establishes for the very first time restrictions on people who pay for their own private health insurance. This is not partisan spin; this is fact. A new study by George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services concluded:

The treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange.

This is government invading the personal lives of Americans, and it puts the health of women and young girls at grave risk.

In fact, this amendment would represent the only place in the entire health care bill where opponents are actually correct. This would truly limit access to medical care by giving the government the power to make medical decisions, not the patient or the doctor.

We all agree it is important to reduce abortions in this country, and I will continue to work in many ways to reduce unintended pregnancies and to promote adoption. However, the Stupak amendment prohibits the public plan as well as the private plans offered through the exchange, if they accept any subsidized customers, from covering any abortion services. This effectively bans full reproductive coverage in all health insurance plans in the new system, whether they are public or private.

Creating a system in which women are forced to purchase a separate abortion rider is not only discriminatory, it is ridiculous. It would require women to essentially plan for an event that occurs in the most unplanned of circumstances and often in critical emergency situations.

There are currently five States that require a separate rider for abortion coverage. In these five States, it is nearly impossible to find such a private insurance policy that covers full reproductive care. In one State, one insurance company holds 91 percent of the State's health insurance market and refuses to even offer such a rider.

There is no doubt that a lack of access to full reproductive health care puts the lives of women and girls at grave risk. The Stupak 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 not only discriminatory, it is dangerous. Without proper coverage, women will be forced to postpone care while attempting to find the money to pay for it. Such a delay can lead to increased costs and graver health risks, particularly for these younger girls or these women will be forced to return to dangerous back-alley providers. Women and girls in America deserve better.

I am optimistic we can defeat this radical change to Federal law, pass a health care bill in the Senate that respects current law, and strip the dangerous Stupak measure during the conference process. As I said before, I think there has been a lot of misinformation about what the Stupak measure does and the level of danger this kind of sweeping change could pose to women and girls.

This health care package must move us forward toward quality, affordable health care for every single American.

I ask my colleagues to oppose the Nelson amendment and any similar measure. I ask that we work together to preserve current law and respect the private choices made between a woman and her doctor.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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