Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introduced Federal and State Legislative Proposals Affect Reproductive Health

Many bills have been introduced at the federal and state level that negatively impact reproductive health.  The bills at the federal level limit access to reproductive health services, including family planning and abortion services, which will disproportionately affect women of limited income.  At the state level, many lawmakers across the country are introducing legislation to ban abortion coverage in state exchanges.  Five states have already banned coverage for abortion in their health exchange plan (Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee), with Louisiana and Tennessee failing to create any exceptions such as when the woman is a victim of rape or incest or when continuing her pregnancy would be life-endangering. 

Below is a synopsis of the two pieces of federal legislation.   A New York Times article explains the proposed legislation at the state level. The two federal bills are also attached. 

Rep. Smith (R-NJ) has introduced H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion Act, which would not only essentially eliminate abortion coverage in health reform, but would also severely limit access to abortion for women on Medicaid. Under current federal law, Medicaid enrollees are already restricted in their access to abortion services, as only those who are victims of rape or incest or where continuing their pregnancy would be life-endangering are entitled to abortion services.  (However, Medicaid enrollees who qualify for abortion services oftentimes do not receive services -- in the next coming months, NHeLP will be producing material around this issue of illegal denials of abortion services).  This limited access proves problematic for many women and families who cannot afford an abortion and do not qualify under the exceptions, and there are documented stories of women going to great lengths (sometimes even dangerous or unsafe) to terminate their pregnancies.  Limiting access does not reduce the need for abortion -- it only makes it more burdensome for women, primarily low-income women, to obtain abortion services.

Rep. Pence (R-IN) introduced a bill entitled  the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would bar any organization who performs abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest or life-endangerment, in conjunction with family planning services from receiving Title X funding.  Currently under federal law, no Title X funds may be used for abortion services.  This bill is simply an unnecessary restraint on family planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, who carefully separate their funding streams and provide some individuals with abortion referrals and services with non-Title X funding.

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