The Protect Life Act Would Actually Threaten Women’s Lives

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–October 13, 2011.  The House of Representatives today will consider H.R. 358, “The Protect Life Act,” sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA).

Abortion coverage was heavily debated during health reform. The Stupak Amendment would have effectively banned coverage of abortion from health plans sold in insurance exchange markets. But that approach was rejected. Instead, the Affordable Care Act allows insurance plans to cover abortion so long as privately and publicly funded premiums are segregated and only private money is used to pay for abortion coverage.

The Pitts bill attempts to re-open this debate by banning any insurance plan sold in the exchanges from covering abortion if federal money is used to help pay for the plan. Because the vast majority of people purchasing insurance in the exchanges will qualify for federal premium subsidies, the likely result is that no insurance plan will offer abortion coverage.

Jessica Arons, Director of Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement regarding the Protect Life Act.

For those who opposed the Stupak Amendment, they should find the Pitts bill equally disturbing, if not more so, because the Pitts bill goes even farther than the failed Stupak Amendment. It would override a longstanding law that requires hospitals to provide care in emergency situations. That means it would allow religiously-affiliated hospitals to refuse care to a woman in need of an abortion even in life threatening circumstances. This is not a far-fetched scenario. Last year, a nun was excommunicated for allowing an abortion to be performed in a Catholic hospital in order to save a woman’s life.

The bill would also protect only the conscience of those opposed to abortion and do nothing to protect the medical professionals who wish to provide abortion care and who routinely face harassment and violence because of their work. In addition, it would ignore patients’ consciences and deny women access to information about abortion coverage and services.

And the so-called conscience clause is not limited to abortion services. Indeed, this expansive bill would overturn the recent decision from Health and Human Services that requires contraception to be covered at no additional cost. Other sometimes-controversial services, such as those for infertility, sexually transmitted infections, genetic testing, HIV, and end-of-life care could also be compromised by this bill.

In sum, the deceptively titled “Protect Life Act” would do exactly the opposite by threatening women’s lives and undermining health reform.