Playing Politics With Women's LivesHouse Republicans approved an egregious measure last week that would shrink access to abortion to the point of endangering women's lives.
Right now, hospitals receiving federal money must administer necessary emergency medical services to pregnant women, including abortion. The Protect Life Act would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an emergency abortion on religious or moral grounds even if a woman's life was at stake.
Representative Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania Republican who introduced the bill, contends it involves no new risk to women. That is flat out wrong. This could be life-threatening to women, especially those living in communities with only one hospital. Catholic hospitals alone account for about 15 percent of the nation's hospital beds. The need to accommodate religious doctrine does not give health providers serving the general public license to deny essential care. Congress should be looking for ways to reinforce that principle, not undermine it.
Beyond emergency treatment, the Pitts bill would effectively ban insurance coverage for abortion in the new state health insurance exchanges set up as part of health care reform, even though the reform law already places unnecessary restrictions on insurers and the insured to make sure no federal money is used to pay for abortions.
The bill would also allow states to override the health reform law's requirement that new insurance plans cover certain preventive health services without a co-pay, potentially making birth control a target. For now, the measure has little chance of becoming law, with Democrats controlling the Senate and President Obama in the White House. But with state abortion restrictions proliferating, the bill is another warning that supporters of women's reproductive rights need to push back a lot harder.
© 2000-2011 David G. Arganian, all rights reserved.