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Cooler heads prevailing on debate over abortion

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Patricia Finder-Stone
December 14, 2009

Despite the substantial expansion of health care access in the historic health care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in November, a final amendment added at the 11th hour rolls back an important womenís health service


The amendment, sponsored by Democrat Bart Stupak from Michigan, would deny millions of women access to abortion services, a benefit now included in about 80 percent of private insurance plans.


Fortunately, the U.S. Senate did not allow a fight over abortion to derail progress on health care reform.


The Senate bill contains a compromise on abortion policy that reflects the status quo and current law; it prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion but still allows women to use their own money to buy the coverage they need.


We know few issues are as politically challenging as abortion, so compromise is essential if we are to achieve the goal of expanded access to health care for all. This abortion-neutral language is supported by Congress members on both sides of the abortion issue and was also included in the original House bill. It is a fair solution that doesnít favor either side and ensures that the abortion debate does not stall health care reform.


It is time for anti-abortion zealots to stop using health reform as a vehicle to restrict womenís constitutionally guaranteed right to abortion services. By playing politics with womenís health, anti-abortion advocates could very well bring health care reform to a grinding halt, which would be disastrous for us allóespecially those who need reform the most.


As we move through the Senate debate and into the conference committee process, letís urge Congress to honor the presidentís promise that the American people who like their present health care coverage can keep it.


Women must be able to decide what kind of insurance coverage is best for them and their families.


The final health care reform bill must contain the Senateís abortion compromise and reject any attempt to make women worse off under reform than they are in the current system.


Patricia Finder-Stone, MS, RN, is a member of Health Care for America Now-Wisconsin, a coalition of dozens of organizations in the health care, labor and progressive communities advocating for affordable, quality health care for everyone in America. HCANís Web site is healthcareforamericanow.org.

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