February 02, 2011

Senators Gillibrand And Blumenthal Call On Colleagues To Uphold Women’s Access To Reproductive Health

Senators Say Republican House Bills Represent “Unprecedented Effort to Restrict Access”

Washington, DC – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today called on their Senate colleagues to prevent efforts to block access to reproductive health care for millions of American women, citing recently-introduced Republican legislation in the House of Representatives designed to restrict choice and prevent access to vital health care services. In a letter to Senate colleagues, Gillibrand and Blumenthal noted that bills introduced by Representatives Mike Pence and Christopher Smith would constitute an “unprecedented effort to restrict access” to women’s reproductive health care.

“When we should all be focused on creating jobs and growing our economy, extreme forces in the House are mounting a new effort to cut critical funding for women’s health care and curtail women’s rights,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I strongly urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to stand strong against this unprecedented effort to restrict access to women’s reproductive health care. We cannot allow this type of assault on American women to gain any ounce of traction.”

“Women in Connecticut and across the country deserve nothing less than unfettered access to their trusted health care providers and vital health care services,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Efforts by Republican House leadership to overturn long-settled understanding of the law are deeply troubling, and I will strongly oppose them. I am asking colleagues to join in a bipartisan fight against any measure that would so severely set back and sabotage women’s health care and rights.”

In the letter, Gillibrand and Blumenthal tell Senate colleagues:

The Republican House leadership has made it a top priority to move legislation that would redefine the long-settled understanding of what constitutes federal funding of abortion, and to defund Planned Parenthood health centers around the country. Both bills introduced by Representatives Smith and Pence are likely to pass the House, and we will no doubt see attempts to pass these bills in the Senate.

We must work together to stop these bills in their tracks, as they represent an unprecedented effort to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care and to their trusted health care providers.

Gillibrand helped lead the fight in the Senate to oppose the harmful and dangerous Stupak Amendment to health care reform and has long advocated for affordable access to quality reproductive care for all women.

Blumenthal has been a steadfast supporter of a woman’s right to choose; as Connecticut’s Attorney General, he consistently advocated for expanded access to vital reproductive health services.


Text of Letter Follows:

Dear Colleague:

We wanted to call your attention to a recent New York Times editorial highlighting two pieces of legislation introduced in the House that seek to undermine the ability of women to access comprehensive health insurance coverage and to see the trusted health care providers on whom they rely for medical care.

The Republican House leadership has made it a top priority to move legislation that would redefine the long-settled understanding of what constitutes federal funding of abortion, and to defund Planned Parenthood health centers around the country. Both bills introduced by Representatives Smith and Pence are likely to pass the House, and we will no doubt see attempts to pass these bills in the Senate.

We must work together to stop these bills in their tracks, as they represent an unprecedented effort to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care and to their trusted health care providers.

We hope you will take the time to read this editorial and consider the many ways in which the Smith and Pence bills would negatively impact the health care available to women. We look forward to working with you to make sure that women can continue to have access to reproductive health care and the health care provider they rely on.

Sincerely,

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Richard Blumenthal

New York Times Editorial: The Two Abortion Wars: A Highly Intrusive Federal Bill

January 29, 2011

House Republicans are preparing to push through restrictions on federal financing of abortions far more extreme than previously proposed at the federal level. Lawmakers who otherwise rail against big government have made it one of their highest priorities to take the decision about a legal medical procedure out of the hands of individuals and turn it over to the government.

Their primary bill —the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — is so broad that it could block insurance coverage for abortions for countless American women.

The anti-abortion forces almost derailed health care reform last year over whether people could buy policies that cover abortion on new insurance exchanges. The compromise embedded in the reform law sets up a hugely complicated plan to segregate an individual’s premium payments from the government subsidies. It is so burdensome that it seems likely to discourage insurers from offering any abortion coverage at all on the exchanges.

But anti-abortion lawmakers are not satisfied. The new bill, introduced by Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, would bar outright the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance that covers abortion well beyond the new exchanges.

The tax credits that are encouraging small businesses to provide insurance for their workers could not be used to buy policies that cover abortions. People with their own policies who have enough expenses to claim an income tax deduction could not deduct either the premiums for policies that cover abortion or the cost of an abortion. People who use tax-preferred savings accounts to pay medical costs could not use the money to pay for an abortion without paying taxes on it.

The only tax subsidy left untouched is the exclusion that allows workers whose premiums are subsidized by their employers to avoid paying taxes on the value of the subsidy. Many, if not most, employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortions. There would have been a huge political battle if workers were suddenly told they had to pay taxes on the benefit or change their policies.

The Smith bill also would take certain restrictions on federal financing for abortions that now must be renewed every year and make them permanent. It would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of “forcible” rape but not statutory or coerced rape, and in cases where a woman is in danger of death from her pregnancy but not of other serious health damage. It would free states from having to provide abortions in such emergency cases.

A separate Republican bill would deny federal funds for family planning services to any organization that provides abortions. It is aimed primarily at Planned Parenthood’s hundreds of health centers, which also provide many other valuable services. No federal money is used for the abortions. This is a reckless effort to cripple an irreplaceable organization out of pure politics.