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Protect Life Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 358, legislation that infringes upon a woman's right to choose. This bill is unnecessary, divisive, and extreme. And it saddens me that the Republican leadership has chosen to bring this bill to the House floor when Americans are struggling.

The American people want us to work together to address their top priority: creating jobs. As such, we should be focusing on putting Americans back to work, not dividing Congress on ideological issues. And we certainly shouldn't be considering legislation that rolls back women's reproductive rights 38 years.

Supporters of this bill claim it is amending the Affordable Care Act to ensure U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund abortions. However, the Affordable Care Act already prohibits the use of Federal dollars to fund abortions. Instead, H.R. 358 will eliminate access to abortion care for many women by banning insurance plans regulated by the Affordable Care Act from offering abortion-inclusive coverage if they take even one federally subsidized customer. So if a plan takes one subsidized customer, then they can't provide abortion coverage insurance to anyone else in the plan.

What's even more concerning is that this legislation could place many women who need reproductive health care in dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations by expanding a lopsided policy that allows health workers and hospitals the ability to refuse to provide and refer for abortion care and even deny emergency abortion care.

So that's why I was so appalled, truly appalled yesterday by comments that were made at the Rules Committee, and I want to set the record straight. This bill is not simply the Stupak-Pitts amendment that was debated and supported during the health reform consideration. During the Rules Committee, I heard that over and over again from the Republican side--this is just the Stupak bill all over again. That is simply not true.

Madam Speaker, H.R. 358 goes significantly beyond the Stupak amendment. The Stupak amendment limited its reach only to qualified health plans and had no effect on completely private plans. But H.R. 358 affects any health plan.

The Stupak amendment limited its reach only to Federal funding and insurance coverage of abortion. H.R. 358 includes access to abortion services, a much broader term with far-reaching effects.

And the Stupak amendment limited its reach only to State conscience protection laws that deal with abortion. But H.R. 358 expands that protection to those covering health and medical services outside of abortion.

The Stupak amendment did not create any exception to the obligation of hospitals to comply with EMTALA. Instead, it left that obligation intact.

So, as my colleagues will see, no one should be fooled by the argument that this is simply Stupak because it's simply not. I want to emphasize, the effect of this amendment would mean that, effectively, women would not be able to get any kind of health insurance for abortion coverage either because they wouldn't be able to get a comprehensive plan on the exchange or because they would be forced to try to buy one outside the exchange just for abortion services, which isn't going to be available.

So, practically speaking, what the Pitts amendment does is make it impossible for a woman to exercise her right under the Constitution if she chooses to have an abortion because she won't be able to get insurance coverage for it at all.

Madam Speaker, H.R. 358 is a massive overreach of women's health. It extensively restricts women's access to reproductive health services and lifesaving care. It is a step towards eliminating a choice that our Supreme Court has deemed legal and remains legal to this day.

Now, if you want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and I know that there are Members on the other side of the aisle who feel that way, then they can try to do that. But don't do it in a sneaky way by denying women insurance and effectively saying that they can't exercise what the Supreme Court says is their right under the Constitution.

Women need and are entitled to safe, affordable health care options. This bill only serves to create health and financial challenges that I think are going to be impossible to overcome. It's dangerous to women's health.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``nay'' on the legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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