The XX Factor

Abortion and the Health Care Debate

Abortion didn’t get much air time during the Sotomayor hearings, but it’s become a flashpoint in the fight over Obama’s health care legislation. Conservatives are saying that the various bills Congress is considering would increase access to abortion and subsidize the procedure with government funding. Meanwhile, a separate bill with support from both the pro-choice and pro-life sides designed to prevent unwanted pregnancy, with more money for contraception, could get caught in the crossfire. That bill, sponsored by House Democrats Tim Ryan of Ohio (pro-life) and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut (pro-choice) was trying to stay clear of controversy; it includes no money for the morning-after pill, for example. But conservative groups are now coming out against it.

The Washington Post has a helpful overview . At the American Prospect , Dana Goldstein smartly goes at the conservative claims that health care reform will become a vehicle for government funding of abortion. She correctly points out that Congress barred Medicaid from funding abortion way back in 1976, in passing the Hyde Amendment . And she writes:

Far from cackling as they sneakily lobby for “abortion-on-demand” legislation, women’s health advocates are actually rather anxious. In the Senate, anti-choice Republicans say they will oppose any health reform plan that subsidizes abortion coverage or even includes, in the proposed health insurance exchanges , private insurers that cover abortion. Currently, 87 percent of health plans offer some abortion services. That means if Democrats capitulate, the majority of women who currently have abortion coverage could lose it. The result would be a near-blanket restriction on women’s access to insurance-subsidized abortion, one far more radical than the Hyde Amendment.

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images.