H.R. 358, also known as the Protect Life Act, has passed in the House of Representatives and now moves on to the Senate for voting. This new piece of legislation would remove women’s rights that go back to the Reagan Administration.
The bill is officially known as the Protect Life Act, but it, sadly, restricts women’s access to reproductive health care services. Those who support the bill say it is merely changing a small part of the Affordable Care Act so that US taxpayer money will not be used to fund abortions. The fact is, this is already prohibited under the Affordable Care Act. H.R. 358 goes even farther than the Hyde Amendment as it restricts women who have have private insurance from spending their own private money on health insurance.
“Extremists prevailed today in the House of Representatives,” said Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families, “proving again that they are badly out-of-touch with the majority of Americans who want lawmakers to focus on economic recovery, jobs and promoting, rather than restricting, affordable, quality health care – not [on] an extreme, anti-woman agenda.”
The bill, H.R. 358, about which we have written extensively, revives the earlier failed Stupak amendment, which would force health plans to drop comprehensive coverage in state health insurance exchanges, cutting off millions of women from the benefits they receive today and prevent women from paying for health insurance with abortion coverage with their own money.
H.R. 358 contains other provisions revealing complete disregard for women’s health and lives. It permits states to enact sweeping refusal laws that would allow health plans to refuse to cover women’s preventive services, including birth control, without cost-sharing — undoing a new protection under health reform supported by 66 percent of Americans. It also codifies and significantly expands an already expansive refusal clause (also known as the Weldon amendment) without any regard for patient rights or protections. Under current law (through the 2004 Weldon amendment), hospitals, health care facilities, and insurance plans can refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. The Weldon amendment has no protections for patients to ensure they have access to care and information in a timely manner. H.R. 358 codifies this unfair and discriminatory provision. H.R. 358 further allows health care entities–hospitals, clinics–to refuse to “participate in” abortion care. This could mean that a hospital employee with no medical training or role in a patient’s treatment decisions could refuse to process bills, handle medical records, or even set up an examination room for a patient seeking abortion care.
And finally, it overrides protections for pregnant women under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. EMTALA was enacted in 1986 to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay, including women in active labor. Under EMTALA, hospitals must stabilize a pregnant patient who, for example, is facing an emergency obstetric condition or life-threatening pregnancy and either treat her–including an emergency abortion–or if the hospital or staff objects, to transfer her to another facility that will treat her.
H.R. 358 overturns decades of precedent guaranteeing people access to lifesaving emergency care, including abortion care and says its ok that a pregnant woman fighting for her life be left to die.
The president strongly opposes H.R. 358 and it is likely to fail in the Senate, but it is important to understand that the republicans continue to push for this type of national policy. By doing so, they are telling women that they no longer matter in this world and are merely baby carriers.