The Stupak Amendment to the US Health Care bill would dictate that no insurance policy which covers abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or danger to mother’s life) could be part of the pool of insurance plans for which people are entitled to government subsidies. As a long-time UK resident I confess that I was a little unsure at first how much of an impact this would have. My suspicion was that almost no US insurance policies covered abortion anyway. (The NHS, of course, does. And birth control pills are free.) It turns out this was wrong. And, given the way that insurance tends to work, ruling out abortion coverage for the policies in the pool would be very likely to end up denying it to all women. This would be a horrendous result, as these stories from doctors make very clear to anyone in doubt.
This led to a now-familiar US political situation in which feminists were being asked to sacrifice a vital interest of women to the greater good (in this case, of health care reform). And in which those who objected to this were accused of selfishly holding the interests of everyone else hostage to the supposedly niche issue of the health and rights of half the population.
Now, however, the senate has offered a compromise, which– in the way of all compromises– has serious drawbacks. But it is nonetheless a vast improvement.
The key details of the Senate bill are as follows: Both public and private plans are allowed to offer abortion coverage. It empowers consumers to use government subsidies to purchase insurance that covers abortion, but requires that their premiums (and not federal funds) pay for the actual procedures. The Health and Human Services Secretary is charged with evaluating plans to ensure that taxpayers do not pay for abortions. And, while the bill requires at least one plan in each state to cover abortion, it also includes a conscience clause stating that healthcare providers cannot “be discriminated against because of a willingness or an unwillingness … to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
For more on the compromise bill, see here. (Thanks, Vishal, for repeatedly but kindly nudging me to write something more on this.)