What exactly happened this weekend?

Anyone who was on facebook or twitter this weekend, might have noticed that there were drastic changes introduced into the Senate version of health care reform. For anyone who wasn’t following the latest health care news (New York was battling a blizzard and thwarted travel plans after all) here’s a recap:

  • On Saturday morning, Senator Reid introduced the long-awaited manager’s amendment to the Senate health care reform bill. This is essentially the final amendment to the Senate bill that will secure the 60 votes necessary to end a Republican filibuster.
  • This amendment included language by Senator Nelson that severely restricts access to abortion care.
  • Specifically, the language creates an unworkable system whereby individuals are required to write two separate checks each month, one for abortion care and one for everything else.
  • Not only does this stigmatize abortion care, it is highly unlikely that insurance companies will be willing to follow such an administratively cumbersome system, leaving tens of millions of women without abortion coverage.
  • The Nelson language also would also strip away the underlying protection in the Senate bill that at least one plan in each exchange must provide abortion coverage, instead requiring only that at least one plan in each exchange reuses to cover abortion.
  • It also unnecessarily removes protections for abortion providers — leaving a lopsided protection only for entities that refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion.

There’s a full analysis of the bill on Planned Parenthood’s national website, and PPNYC will be on WBAI tonight at 6pm and 11pm talking more about the restrictions.

But this is a sad sad turn of events. There’s no doubt that America needs health care reform. Planned Parenthood of New York City sees more than 45,000 patients each year, many of whom come in without insurance — we know the devastating effect not being able to afford health care can have on people’s lives. But the bottom line is that health care reform is supposed to be about making people healthier. And the Senate bill as it stands would do more harm to women more than good.

We’ll be fighting to strip out harmful language when the bill moves to conference, but in the meantime you can contact your representatives, and urge them to fight to protect women’s health in the final bill.

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