Today, the House Rules Committee is expected to take up H.R. 358, the misnamed Protect Life Act, meaning it could be on the floor for a vote as early Thursday. H.R. 358 would prevent women from purchasing health insurance plans that cover abortion and would significantly expand refusal laws that allow women to be denied they abortion care they need.
H.R. 358 even goes so far as to allow hospitals to deny women emergency abortions to save their lives or health. Due to this provision it is hard to see H.R. 358 as “the Protect Life Act,” as it is a bit more “the Let Women Die Act.”
If passed, it could even limit women’s ability to access contraception! As part of the compromise on abortion, the Affordable Care Act included a provision that made clear that nothing in the health care law would preempt state laws on abortion. However, H.R. 358 expands this provision, preventing the new health care law from preempting any state law – now or in the future – that has to do with “conscience rights.”
So what does this mean for women? Well, it means that states could undermine the coverage of contraception we fought so hard for this summer. Throughout the summer, nearly 65,000 of you joined us in asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to include birth control on a list of preventive services for women, and now through passage of H.R. 358 all of our hard work could be undone. And in states that pass these laws, who would decide if birth control would be covered? Those so noble arbiters of morality – insurance companies.
And while H.R. 358 is an obvious and direct attack on women’s access to reproductive health services, it is also an outright attack on the health care law. It perpetuates the myth that the Affordable Care Act allows for federal funding of abortion, and some Members of Congress use this claim to undermine support of the law. That’s why earlier this year we circulated a letter, and had over 50 health groups sign on opposing H.R. 358.
Stay tuned to our blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed to learn more about H.R. 358 and for information on how to contact your Representative and to tell him/her to vote NO on this outrageous and dangerous bill.