Health care reform and reproductive rights

HEALTH CARE REFORM AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS…. At this point, there are at least 30 House members — from both parties — who have vowed to oppose health care reform unless the legislation specifically excluded funds that might pay for abortions. Roll Call reported:

Abortion foes say draft versions of the House health care bill allow for the possibility that the Health Benefits Advisory Committee will recommend that abortion services be included as part of a benefits package. Unless the bill has a clear exclusion, they say, abortion could be included in a government-subsidized health care plan. […]

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Values Action Team, on Tuesday hosted a press event with 11 Republicans concerned that the bill would allow publicly funded abortions and create a mandate that would force private insurers to cover abortion.

At the press conference, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said health care reform inevitably mean that “new abortion clinics would have to be built all across America.”

These 11 GOP lawmakers, in all likelihood, would oppose health care reform no matter what the provisions. Of greater interest are the 19 House Democrats who recently wrote in a letter to Speaker Pelosi that they, too, would oppose the bill unless it explicitly prohibits funding for abortions.

These 30 conservatives, then, are effectively arguing that in at least one instance, the government must come between a woman and her physician, because the lawmakers don’t like the legal medical procedure in question.

Igor Volsky had more on this last week:

The available legislation from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Senate Committee and the House’s Tri Committee leaves the coverage decisions — the design of the so-called essential benefit packages — to the Secretary of Health and Human Services or a committee of experts. The Chairman’s mark of the HELP bill sates that “the Secretary shall ensure that the scope of the essential health benefits under paragraph (1)(A) is equal to the scope of benefits provided under a typical employer plan, as determined by the Secretary.” The Tri Committee legislation establishes a “private-public advisory committee which shall be a panel of medical and experts to be known as the Health Benefits Advisory Committee to recommend covered benefits and an essential benefits package.”

Neither would specifically exclude abortion as a medical procedure from the broader reform effort. Apparently, conservatives consider that a problem.

The “culture war” hasn’t played too big a role in the reform debate thus far. That may be about to change.