Bad news for those of us who've been hoping President Obama would confront members of Congress who are using abortion to delay health reform: The Times reports that Obama called anti-choice Democrat Bart Stupak -- who has sworn to beat back any bill that includes even private plans that cover abortion -- and told him to work the issue out within the Democratic Party. The problem is, the White House has given no indication as to what "working it out" should look like. Should women who receive insurance affordability subsidies be denied access to every health plan covering abortion? (Currently, most employer-provided plans do offer some abortion coverage, so this would be a radical shift.) That's what Stupak and his allies would like to see. They aren't satisfied with provisions that would simply prevent public funds from paying for abortions, by segregating the public money from private premiums and co-pays.
Stupak's logic follows that of the Hyde Amendment, which already prevents federal Medicaid dollars from paying for most abortions. The strategy is to use government health care programs to restrict the reproductive freedom of the poor, and now the middle class. But Stupak's proposed ban on abortion coverage for women receiving subsidies -- women who could earn as much as $43,000 annually -- would have the effect of discouraging abortion coverage across the board, since plans that deny coverage would be eligible for more government support and could legally attract more customers.
A pro-choice White House should be saying a firm "no" to these shenanigans. Reform should expand -- not restrict -- women's access to reproductive health care.
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