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15 February 2011

The GOP's War on Women Continues

House Republicans sponsored a bill to completely eliminate federally funded abortions for victims of rape, incest and in some cases where the life of the mother is in danger. Currently Medicaid can assist in paying for medical care for poor women who seek abortion as a result of rape, incest or where they risk death by continuing the pregnancy.  The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would have eliminated federal funding for all abortions except in the most extreme cases.  The law would make permanent the Hyde Amendment which already prohibits the use of federal funds for non-therapeutic abortion.  After the attempt to re-define rape failed, the GOP now moves to allow hospitals covered by the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) to deny emergency room treatment to women who seek life saving abortions.  The 1986 EMTALA act requires that all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments and provide emergency department services receive and treat every person who requests a medical screening in an emergency department regardless of ability to pay.  If a covered hospital cannot provide necessary treatment it is required to transfer the patient to a hospital that can provide care.  The GOP seeks to exempt covered hospitals from EMTALA where the patient is a pregnant woman seeking an emergency abortion.

The Protect Life Act has been proposed as an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and would permit hospitals covered by EMTALA, but opposed to abortion, to turn away women seeking emergency abortion services.  In effect the proposed law appears to allow hospitals that receive federal funds to tell pregnant women who show up in their emergency departments that they will not help them and then send them out the door without an emergency medical screening. The bill also sneaks the "forcible rape" provision back into the lexicon of proposed womb monitoring laws:
(c) Limitation on Abortion Funding

(1) IN GENERAL- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act . . .   may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except:
(A) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest; or
(B) in the case where a pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
The proposed legislation would uphold and codify the "rights of conscience" of doctors and other health care providers who are opposed to abortion rights.  The legislation prohibits the withholding of federal funds to hospitals and other covered entities that refuse to provide abortions - without exception. 
(g) Nondiscrimination on Abortion
(1) NONDISCRIMINATION- A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), may not subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination, or require any health plan created or regulated under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) to subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination, on the basis that the health care entity refuses to
(A) undergo training in the performance of induced abortions;

(B) require or provide such training;

(C) perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions; or

(D) provide referrals for such training or such abortions.

(2) DEFINITION- In this subsection, the term `health care entity' includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.
The anti-choice advocates make it seem like women are flocking to hospitals in droves to have abortions on the tax payer dime.  This is simply not true.  How many women and girls actually receive federal funds for abortions? 
Only 85 abortions of pregnancy resulting from rape, incest or where the woman’s life was in danger were paid for by Medicaid in the USA in 2006. That’s 85 out of the 7.4 million women of child-bearing age covered by Medicaid. SOURCE
On it's face the proposed legislation seems to cover life-threatening medical conditions that require an abortion to save the life of the mother; but she has to get in the emergency department and receive a medical screening first to determine if her condition is life-threatening.  What the sponsors of this bill and its supporters do not appear to understand is that the fetus lives or dies with the mother.  Refusing emergency abortion treatment will not prevent non-therapeutic abortions, but may result in the death of both the woman and the fetus. 

If the GOP and the anti-choice Democrats really cared about women's health issues and preventing unnecessary abortions, they would be more supportive of sex education in our public schools, availability of contraception to teens and adults, public funding for contraception education and providing adequate medical care for all Americans.  This latest bill is nothing more than another legislative maneuver to restrict the reproductive rights of women.

Status, Text and Sponsors of Protect Life Act


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