Last week, several women’s rights groups reported that Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee were pushing legislation that would require insurers operating within the new Exchange to deny coverage for abortion services. But today, during an appearance on MSNBC to discuss the Sotomayor confirmation, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member on the committee, downplayed these reports:
MATTHEWS: Do you believe if abortion is covered in the new national health care bill that the President is trying to win by the end of this year, if abortion is included as one of the services, that that will kill the bill?
GRASSLEY: On that point, what we are trying to do, is to do what the present policy is, within in law, maintain present policy. If we can maintain present policy, and why would anybody want to overturn present policy on that issue, then we ought not have any problems.
Grassley’s answer minimizes his role advocating for the restriction. As J. Lester Feder reports in Newsweek, “Grassley, has been pushing for the inclusion of measures that would prevent reform from leading to ‘taxpayer-subsidized abortion’ ….’At one point during the recent negotiations, there was a [compromise] solution that didn’t work out.'”
The current policy, denies federal Medicaid coverage of abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Extending the restrictions that poor women live under to anyone who purchases private coverage within the Exchange is not just a matter of “maintain[ing] present policy.” To the contrary, millions of women who have access to abortion services (through their employer) would suddenly lose it, should they chose to enroll in a new health care plan in the Exchange. As The Guttmacher Institute concluded in 2002, 86.9 percent of “typical” employment-based health plans “routinely cover” surgical abortion and 86.5 percent “routinely cover” medical abortion.