April 3, 2011
We post today an important guest piece we received a few days ago from M. Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State (FPA), a non-profit, statewide organization dedicated to protecting, and expanding access to, a full range of reproductive health care services. FPA represents New York's Planned Parenthood affiliates and other family planning centers, as well as hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual members. Please read her informed and cautionary essay and consider the personal and societal impact of defunding a major health-care provider and begin to consider, if you have not already done so, how you will vote in coming elections.
And now, Ms. Brooks: Congress goes back into session this week, and I truly hope that a week of recess caused the House Republican Leadership to rethink their attack on women’s health care. I hope, too, that Senate and House leaders, along with the Obama administration, developed clarity during the recess on the need to stand up for women’s health care during negotiations on the proposed Continuing Resolution
spending bill because women’s health can no longer be used as a bargaining chip.
As you will recall, in order to keep the Stupak Amendment ban on abortion coverage out of health care reform, leaders agreed to a lesser evil—the Nelson Amendment. Under this agreement, if you are insured through an insurance exchange once they become active by 2014, and your policy includes abortion coverage (which most private policies do), you will need to make two separate premium payments, one for the abortion portion of the policy (likely $1 or less) and one for the remainder of the coverage. This is the so-called two-check system, requiring that two checks be written for premium payments. Plus, the
insurance company must maintain these payments in separate accounts. How many insurance companies do you think will continue offering abortion coverage as a standard health insurance benefit when faced with this administrative nightmare? Not many, according to the experts.
As women’s health advocates, we certainly wanted the Affordable Care Act to pass, as it opens up coverage to millions more women and families and expands benefits. However, the Nelson Amendment is a clear example of women’s health care being used as a bargaining chip to get the health care reform package passed.
Here we are, again, in 2011 with women’s health care on the chopping block. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution spending bill that eliminates the Title X family planning grant program AND defunds Planned Parenthood. The amendment put forth by Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) specifically names Planned Parenthood, and only Planned Parenthood, as being barred from receiving federal funds for any purpose. This includes lifesaving
cancer screenings and breast exams, annual exams, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, counseling and testing for HIV, pregnancy prevention education and Medicaid as an insurance product accepted at Planned Parenthood. How could any lawmaker, in all good conscience, take such services away from millions of women, men and teens?
The ultimate goal of the anti-choice leadership in the House is to eliminate Planned Parenthood because, among myriad reproductive health care services, it provides abortion care, which IS NOT funded with federal taxpayer dollars. The lawmakers who voted in support of the Pence Amendment are willing to jeopardize women’s health to advance their extreme ideology.
What happened to promises made in the 2010 elections? “Vote for me, and I will restore jobs and fix the economy,” is what we heard over and over and over again from candidates coast to coast. Yet, several anti-choice, anti-women bills and amendments were given high priority status in the House in the first weeks of the new session.
Women’s health care CANNOT be forfeited in the negotiations between the Senate and House leaders and the administration as they work to reach agreement on a Continuing Resolution spending bill that will be in place until September of this year. So, nationwide, women’s health care advocates are working harder than ever to make sure Title X family planning grant funding is maintained, just as it has been since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970, and to ensure Planned Parenthood still has access to federal reimbursement for providing health care services.
At the same time, our minds are on the 2012 elections. When the 240
Representatives in the House voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, they obviously did not count on the outrage, the uproar, the activism they stirred up in support of this nearly century-old health care institution. They can be assured that the outrage is not going away. At the VERY LEAST, it will last through Election Day 2012.
Words of wisdom: Be a fully informed and diligent when you vote! Women's health care and physical and economic safety hang in the balance. Mothers, when you vote, let your children watch, let them accompany you, let them learn that each voice, each vote is essential.