Press Release

Gillibrand, Maloney, Quinn, Gloria Steinem and Dozens of Women Leaders Join Together to Protest Anti-Choice Stupak Amendment in Health Reform Bill

Nov 16, 2009

York, NY
– With the U.S. Senate set to begin debate on health care reform this week,
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was joined today by dozens of women leaders to
protest Michigan Democratic Representative Bart Stupak’s amendment which passed
the House of Representatives this month and would deny millions of women access
to reproductive care. Doctors, businesswomen, teachers, public health experts,
city, state, and federal elected officials and pro-choice leaders from NARAL,
Planned Parenthood and others gathered to denounce the discriminatory and
dangerous anti-choice provision, which would effectively prevent women from
purchasing reproductive insurance with their own money and put the health of millions of women and young girls at
grave risk.

“A lack of access to full reproductive health care puts the lives of
women and girls at grave risk,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This anti-choice
measure poses greater restriction on low-income women and those who are more
likely to receive some kind of subsidy and less likely to be able to afford a
supplemental insurance policy. Denying low-income women reproductive coverage
in this way is discriminatory and dangerous. Without proper coverage, women
will be forced to postpone care, while
attempting to find the money they need to pay for it. Or these women will be
forced to return to dangerous, back alley providers. Women and girls deserve

The Stupak-Pitts amendment will effectively prohibit private insurance
companies offering coverage through the proposed federal health care exchange
from covering abortion services, even for women buying insurance with their own
money. This dangerous and drastic change to existing law would force insurance
companies that currently provide abortion coverage to choose between continuing that coverage or dropping it for all
women if they want to participate in health insurance exchanges.

In doing so, it is the first restriction on women purchasing
insurance with their own dollars. This measure reaches far beyond the so-called
Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal dollars to pay for almost all
abortions in a number of government programs.

The effect of the Stupak-Pitts amendment would require women to
purchase a separate “abortion rider.” However, in the five states that only
allow abortion coverage through a separate rider, it’s nearly impossible to
find such a private insurance policy. In one state, North Dakota, one insurance
company holds 91 percent of the state’s health insurance market and refuses to
even offer such a rider. Further, it would require women to essentially plan
for an event that occurs in the most unplanned and sometimes emergency

According to estimates, the new exchange would offer coverage to many of
the 17 million women ages 18-64 who are uninsured, and would be a source of
coverage for the 5.7 million women who are now purchasing coverage in the
individual market. Small employers (with fewer than 100 employees) are also
likely to move to the exchange for more affordable options. For those women who
presently have health care coverage that includes reproductive care, they would
lose that coverage under the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, “The Stupak amendment
isn’t just about federal funds going to abortion. This isn’t the Hyde
amendment, which bans taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. This goes way
beyond that – further than any current federal law.  The Stupak amendment
would prevent women who are using their own money from being able
to buy through the new insurance exchanges a policy that covers abortions,
although currently nearly 90% of private insurance policies provide such
coverage.  It threatens women’s health and it’s very bad policy.”

Yvette Clarke
said, “The Stupak Amendment radically undermines women’s rights.  As it
currently stands, the amendment bars the use of federally funded insurance
plans to cover abortions.  The amendment limits the opportunity to
purchase coverage for the procedure, diminishing rights for all women, even
those who do not receive any subsidies from the government. Supporters of the
amendment have stated that women could purchase separate coverage to cover the
procedure, but this is not a practical option.  Most people do not have
the foresight to know if they will ever be in a situation that requires such a
procedure.  Also, purchasing additional coverage costs money – money that
many women in my constituency do not have!  The Stupak Amendment should
not be supported.  This amendment adversely impacts a woman’s legal right
to choose and threatens the progress that has been made since Roe v. Wade.”

Nita Lowey
“The Stupak Amendment is an unacceptable and draconian restriction on the right
of women to make their own health care decisions and goes far beyond the status
quo of prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions.  The fact that
anti-choice extremists demanded its inclusion at the 11th hour as
the price of health insurance reform makes it even more outrageous.  The
Senate must reject the Stupak Amendment, and I will fight to ensure it is not
included in the final legislation.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “Health care reform can
not come at the expense of women’s rights.  We are working to eradicate
years of discrimination and inequity in our health care system, not create new
restrictions that hurt working women and prevent them from purchasing coverage
with their own money.”

New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “The Stupak
amendment is a gross insult to women, advocates for choice, and voters who
support health reform.  We cannot allow women’s rights to be sacrificed
for political gain.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said, “This disgraceful attack
on women and their private health care choices reflects a complete lack of
understanding that abortion is not a planned event, but rather a reaction to an
unplanned circumstance; either an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, or a
pregnancy that has gone horribly wrong.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America
(PPFA) President Cecile Richards
“The Stupak amendment restricts abortion coverage by private health insurance
plans in an unprecedented and dangerous manner. Women in this country are not
going to stand for the government making personal medical decisions about
what’s best for them and their families or dictating what kind of health
insurance they can buy. It’s not what the American people want.”

Kelli Conlin, President of NARAL Pro-Choice
New York
said, “The House’s passage
of the unconscionable Stupak-Pitts amendment is a powerful wake-up call to
women.  We were promised time and again that nobody would lose their
existing coverage under health care reform.  But this amendment takes that
promise and turns it into a lie — because a women who currently has abortion
coverage and joins the exchange will simply not have access to that same plan.
That is a loss, and it is not acceptable.  We stand together today to say
that we will not see our rights weakened under health care reform.”

Led by feminist activist icon Gloria Steinem, the following leaders
gathered to speak out for the need to prevent the Stupak amendment from
becoming a part of the final health care reform package that will be passed by

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum,
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, Cecile
(President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America), Kelli
(President of NARAL Pro-Choice NY), Lillian Rodríguez López (President of the Hispanic Federation), Dr. Holly Atkinson (health and
human rights activist), Sonia Ossorio (President of National Organization for Women-NYC), Donna
(Executive Director of New York Civil Liberties Union), Cathy
(President of the Eleanor R. Legacy
Committee) Ilene Lang (President of Catalyst), Irasema Gaza (President of Legal Momentum), Dina Bakst (Co-President of A Better
Balance), District Leader Cynthia Doty, District Leader Pam Elam,
District Leader Joan Paylo plus reps from American
Heart and Stoke Association, CARE, HBC Investments, League of Women Voters,
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, National Latina Institute
for Reproductive Health, New York ChoicePAC, New York Women’s Agenda, Raising
Women’s Voices, United Federation of Teachers and Center for Reproductive Rights.