Democrats Score an Abortion Rights Victory in Healthcare Bill

Next it’s time to take out the odious Hyde Amendment.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The healthcare reform proposal that will emerge from the Senate Finance Committee won't include the two most ticklish issues affecting healthcare reform at the moment. Yesterday the committee shot down two proposals that included so-called public options backed by President Obama and liberal Democrats. Today the committee defeated a proposal that's a darling of the extreme right wing: an expansive ban on even private insurance plans that include funding for abortions, so that even women who now pay privately for that coverage would have to pay again separately if anti-abortion extremists had their way. From CNN.com:

By a 13-10 vote, the Senate Finance Committee defeated the amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to explicitly state that the current ban on federal funding for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's health would apply to all aspects of health insurance in the bill. (to wit, whether publicly funded or not.)

All but one Democrat on the panel—Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota—voted against the amendment, while all Republicans except for Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine—the lone woman among the GOP committee members—supported it.

Both Snowe and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan challenged the amendment as a new limit on a woman's right to abortion by requiring women with private health insurance to purchase supplemental coverage for abortions.

Now I understand the Hyde Amendment—that pesky law that bars federal funding for abortions of any kind—is still on the books. There are plenty of things the federal government funds that I don't want to pay for: the war in Iraq, abstinence-only education, and the list goes on. But Hatch's amendment goes too far—to require women paying out of their own pockets (not relying on federal subsidies) to pay twice out of their own pockets for abortion coverage? That's whacky!

When healthcare reform is completed, congressional Democrats should go after the Hyde Amendment, and some probably will. It needs to be re-authorized each year. Methinks sometime between now and the next mid-term elections, it should be voted down once and for all.