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Public Statements

Protect Life Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Ms. RICHARDSON. Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition of H.R. 358, the misnamed ``Protect Life Act''. At a time when the American people's top priority is job creation, Republicans continue to waste valuable time advancing legislation that has no chance of being signed into law. The real aim of the Protect Life Act is to restrict, if not eliminate all together, reproductive health options for American women. H.R. 358 is a callous piece of legislation that disrespects the judgment of American women.

* The Protect Life Act imposes an unprecedented limitation on abortion coverage and takes extreme measures to prevent women from accessing safe and legal abortion services. This legislation even prevents women from using their own money to purchase private insurance coverage for abortion, worse; the bill would relieve hospitals of their obligation to treat women who need an emergency abortion to save their life.

* The Affordable Care Act already contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape, incest or where the life of woman would be in grave and eminent danger. But the Protect Life Act goes further, much further. It is reckless and endangers women's lives.

* The Protect Life Act makes it virtually impossible for insurance companies in state health-insurance exchanges to offer abortion coverage, including those paying for coverage entirely with private dollars. The bill also prohibits all individuals who receive federal subsidies from purchasing a plan that includes abortion coverage, as well as barring insurance plans from covering abortion if they include even one individual who receives a subsidy.

* Today, nearly 87 percent of private employer-sponsored insurance offer plans which include abortion coverage. This bill would deter insurance companies from offering plans with such options and would likely force millions of women to drop the coverage they currently have.

* Currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by the 1986 law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), to provide emergency care to all patients, regardless of the circumstance. Under EMTALA, if a woman required an emergency abortion to save her life and she was a patient at an anti-abortion hospital or being treated by a health care provider against abortion on religious or moral grounds, the hospital would be required to either perform the abortion or transfer the patient.

* The Affordable Care Act leaves laws that protect medical providers who have religious or moral objections to abortion services intact. But the Protect Life Act goes even further by removing the obligation for medical providers who are not willing to terminate a pregnancy to facilitate a transfer to a hospital that is willing to save the woman's life.

* Madam Speaker, in short, this irresponsible and dangerous legislation would allow a hospital to let a pregnant woman die rather than perform a life-saving procedure. Saving a woman's life should be every hospital's first priority, especially hospitals that receive federal funding.

* The Protect Life Act amends the historic Affordable Care Act, which was passed by the Democratic 111th Congress, so that it does not ensure access to abortion services. This broad language could prevent states and state-based health insurance exchanges from ensuring that women get information about the health care coverage options available to them. It should be an ethical healthcare provision that patients be presented with accurate and complete information about their medical options in order to make the best decisions regarding their health care. This bill denies women that fundamental right.

* In addition, another provision of the Protect Life Act could allow insurers to refuse to offer important services that are part of the minimum standards for health coverage such as services and supplies related to contraception, infertility and sexually transmitted diseases.

* Our friends across the aisle are fond of saying they are against government intrusion into the market place, excessive regulation, and limits on personal freedom. But here they are again trying to deny women the right to choose what is best for themselves and their families. Eliminating access to legal abortions denies women the right to make their own health decisions in accordance with their religious and moral beliefs and as a result, infringes on their equal rights. When it comes to attacking women's freedom and privacy, this legislation knows no bounds. It is an extreme attack against women's reproductive rights and undermines women's access to quality healthcare.

* Mr. Speaker, for these reasons I am proud to stand in strong opposition of H.R. 358, the so-called Protect Life Act and urge my colleagues to join me. This bill is not only unconstitutional, but it is dangerous. A more accurate name for this bill is the ``Endanger Women's Lives Act of 2011.'' In a time of such tough economic hardship, we should be concentrated on created jobs and stabilizing the economy, not advancing extreme legislation that is nothing less than the most comprehensive and radical assault of women's health in our lifetime.

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