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Availability of Abortions Unclear in Proposed Health Care Bill

Lexi Preiser ’10
& Natasha Gabbay ’10
Web Editor-in-Chief & Web Managing Editor

The ongoing debate surrounding health care reform raises a contentious issue with regards to abortion.

Politicians are struggling to agree on a plan that satisfies both pro-life and pro-choice advocates — a task that has proven nearly impossible.

Opinions on both the Senate floor and the Staples cafeteria vary widely on the issue. Pro-choice advocates feel that whether or not abortion is moral, women should be able to make their decision and have healthcare that covers abortion.

“The people who don’t have the means to pay for an abortion are usually the people who don’t have the means to support a child,” Kat Krieger ’10 said. “A woman should not have to raise a child knowing that she cannot take care of it.”

Other students’ opinions align more closely with pro-life views and feel that federal money should not be spent on abortion coverage.

“Personally, I would not vote for a [healthcare reform] bill that covered abortion,” Dylan Murray ’10 said.

While many students have taken a stance on the issue, abortion is an incredibly complex one.

Abortion Under

the Current Healthcare System

The two most common methods of abortion are the abortion pill and an in-clinic procedure. The average cost of both these processes, in regards to an uncomplicated first trimester pregnancy, is $600.

There has always been a ban on federal money being spent on abortions. This means that any employee of the United States government that does not receive healthcare would pay the cost of an abortion.

However, many private insurance companies do have policies that cover abortions. In such cases, the insurance company pays the full cost of an abortion rather than a woman having to use her own money for the procedure.

“In our practice last year, one-third of our patients paid out of pocket for an abortion,” Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at Planned Parenthood of Connecticut Susan Yolen said. “Two thirds of our patients used a third–party payer or some sort of insurance entity [to pay for their abortions].”

The Health Exchange

Currently, the proposed healthcare reform would include what is called a “health exchange.” Under this plan, if a citizen is unable to pay for health insurance or a company chooses to buy employees healthcare through the exchange, government money will be provided as a subsidy. This means that the government will help people pay the costly fees that come with full healthcare insurance.

“Based on your income, you will pay some if you can or nothing if you can’t,” Yolen said. “If you need help getting your insurance paid for, the federal government will subsidize your insurance.”

The current proposition for healthcare reform restricts any person who buys healthcare through the exchange from having abortion coverage. However, many people will still be paying for healthcare insurance, just at lower and more manageable rates due to government subsidies. This leads to the controversy that people who might pay all of their insurance fees will still be restricted from abortion coverage because of the percentage contributed by the government.

“We understand that there is a ban on federal money being spent on abortion. But we don’t think that women who pay their own dollars into the mix should be prohibited from buying abortion coverage,” Yolen said.

Effects on Teenagers

Even with the advent of widely available birth control, pregnancy rates among teenagers rose by 3 percent in 2006. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) stated that in 2008, one million American teenagers became pregnant and 78 percent of those pregnancies were unintentional. The NAF also reported that 35 percent of American teenagers choose to have abortions each year.

Yolen notes that one of the biggest issues with the Stupak Amendment is the proposed “abortion rider.” This aspect will ultimately affect teenage girls greatly if health care reform is passed.

The rider to the amendment technically allows abortion coverage within the health exchange—but only if the purchaser makes a decision to pay the extra fee when initially signing up for healthcare.

“Who on Earth would think ahead and say ‘yeah, I think I will need an abortion this year,’” Yolen said.

Thus, teens whose parents have purchased health insurance without the abortion rider (as Yolen predicts many parents will unfortunately do) will have to pay out of their own pockets for an abortion.

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  • C

    Captain ObviousFeb 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    We’re fighting 2 overseas wars, running massive deficits, and bailing out corrupt fat cats on Wall Street. “Issues” like abortion and gay rights are garbage, and anyone who is stupid enough to make a big deal out of them is just an idiot. People should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.