E.J. Dionne: Democrats should ‘learn to live’ with leaving women behind on health care.

In his Washington Post column today, E.J. Dionne claimed that pro-choice lawmakers and advocates are overstating how detrimental the Stupak amendment would be to women’s access to abortion:

The Michigan Democrat’s measure — passed 240 to 194, with 64 Democrats voting yes — would prohibit abortion coverage in the public option and bar any federal subsidies for plans that included abortion purchased on the new insurance exchanges. […]

Whatever else is true, Stupak’s amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies — although the institute has cautioned that the proportion of women whose abortions were covered by insurance could be higher because the figure did not include those “who obtain reimbursement from their insurance company themselves.”

But as Igor Volsky explains, the actual language of Stupak’s amendment goes well beyond just abortion plans purchased on the exchange. Since federal dollars will also be going to small and large businesses to cover their employees’ health care, a “strict interpretation of the amendment could also restrict abortion coverage in the employer market.” The Guttmacher Institute also published a statement yesterday making clear why saying that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were “directly billed by providers to insurance companies” is misleading.