How Obamacare Opponents Are Twisting The Health Reform Law To Obstruct Abortion Access

After surviving a Supreme Court challenge, dozens of repeal attempts in Congress, and a presidential election, Obamacare is here to stay — and even some of the staunchest opponents of the health care reform law are finally starting to take steps to implement its provisions in their states. But that doesn’t mean anti-Obamacare Republicans aren’t still dreaming up new ways to create roadblocks to health care reform. In the battle to implement the health law on a state level, GOP officials have seized on an opportunity to hide behind Obamacare to limit women’s access to abortion services.

This week, Arkansas became the latest state to ban Obamacare’s state-level health insurance markets from offering any type of abortion coverage. Michigan and New Jersey are currently considering the same type of legislation. Eighteen other states already have similar bans in place, and two more — Kentucky and North Dakota — have laws on the books to mandate the exact same restriction on abortion coverage, even though they don’t mention the health reform law itself.

All told, the American Civil Liberties Union has mapped out 20 states where at least some women who are seeking to terminate a pregnancy can’t get insurance coverage for that legal medical procedure — including eight states where women can’t get any coverage whatsoever for abortion care:

Abortion services are simply another aspect of women’s reproductive health care — along with other potentially expensive services such as HPV vaccinations, regular gynecological exams, family planning services, and maternity care. Because of the range of gender-specific health services that women rely on, they already tend to pay significantly more for their basic health care than men do. Obamacare takes big steps to address the gender-based disparities in health insurance costs, partly by eliminating co-pays for many of women’s essential preventative services, like contraception.


But since the health reform law leaves abortion services up to each state to determine, anti-choice lawmakers are twisting Obamacare’s provisions to punish the women who seek abortions by forcing them to pay huge out-of-pocket costs in order to make their own medical decisions. “Abortion coverage restrictions were a nonissue for an incredibly long amount of time,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute explained to Politico. “That law really encouraged states to go in and pass these abortion coverage restrictions in their own health exchanges.”

And now, women’s health advocates worry that — even though Obamacare itself doesn’t prohibit abortion coverage in its insurance marketplaces — anti-choice activists are successfully construing the health law so it appears to be a vehicle for restricting women’s reproductive rights. Fortunately, that’s not the case in every state. Connecticut lawmakers have taken the opposite approach to the issue and opted to classify elective abortion services as an “essential health benefit” under Obamacare, ensuring that insurers will have to cover the procedure.