IF YOU'RE a woman with private health insurance, chances are your plan covers abortion. More than 80 percent of private insurance plans cover the full range of reproductive health care, including abortions. This has long angered those who oppose abortion rights, and they are working aggressively to eliminate all reproductive services from health-care reform. It is critical that women are not worse off after reform than they are today.
The president and Congress have made great strides toward the essential goal of achieving affordable, quality health care for all. But health-care reform won't be fair - and it won't succeed - if it comes at a steep cost to women. Anti-choice groups and their allies in Congress have seized on health reform as the newest weapon to attack women's health and access to abortion coverage.
The health-care-reform bill that recently passed in the House includes the Stupak Amendment - a ban on private health-insurance coverage for abortion care for millions of women that would also prohibit coverage in the public option, even for women who pay for most or even all the cost of insurance themselves. This is a cruel betrayal of women, and we can't let it be part of the final bill.
Women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more for health care than do men, mostly due to reproductive health-related needs. The House bill would force women to pay additional out-of-pocket costs, even after they have been required to purchase health insurance as part of health reform. Having access to basic reproductive services helps women protect themselves and support their families - and this access becomes even more essential during challenging economic times.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the Senate health-care-reform bill in November - a melded, updated version of the two committee bills. This bill contains language that would maintain current law regarding women's access to health insurance that covers abortion care. If the provision in the House bill remains in the final legislation, it will severely hinder access to critically needed services and endanger women across the country.
WE ARE PLEASED that the Senate bill includes an essential-community-provider provision, which will ensure that people have access to the community providers they know and trust, like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood wants health-care reform to succeed. We want women's access to reproductive-health-care services to be enhanced, and not have abortion services singled out for exclusion.
It is essential for Pennsylvania's congressional delegation to protect women's health by ensuring that the Stupak language is not in the final bill. You can help by urging both of our senators and your representative to act in the best interests of women and their families. American women need health-care reform that safeguards their well-being and doesn't leave them worse off than they are now, with less coverage and less health care.
Dayle Steinberg is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.