A bill expected to be taken up by the House Rules Committee today takes women an unimaginable amount of steps backward. It wasn’t too long ago that, supporters of women’s health had a major victory by working together. Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that contraception was considered to be preventive care and would be covered for women in their insurance plan at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act” not only puts that victory at stake but also much, much more.
H.R. 358 prevents women from purchasing insurance plans that allow access to abortion coverage by eliminating this option in any new health insurance Exchange. It also goes so far as to deny women emergency abortions in cases where the women’s life is at risk, discrediting the very name of the bill.
But how, you may ask, could this possibly limit women’s access to contraception? The answer: A provision included in the ACA would be expanded, preventing the ACA from preempting any state law that has anything to do with “conscience rights.” At the very least, this provision would restrict some women from getting contraception covered by their insurance plan but could also restrict access to the HPV vaccine – a vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer – and other services that are deemed going against the plan’s “conscience.”
Pathways to improved healthcare for women can be achieved by the new healthcare Exchanges under the ACA, but H.R. 358 puts access to comprehensive healthcare services for women at serious risk. We encourage women’s health supporters to contact their representatives and tell them that this bill is simply not acceptable. H.R. 358 is a bad bill for women’s health and, even worse, dangerous for women’s lives.