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Pro-choice activist spoiling for a fight
Question of the Day
The Smith bill goes into “uncharted territory,” Ms. Cohen said in her Guttmacher article: It would prevent employers from taking a tax deduction for insurance plans that include abortion coverage, disallow people to use pretax dollars to pay insurance premiums with abortion coverage or to pay for abortions under a flexible health spending account.
Even abortion foes should be able to see that these represent a “strained view” of government “funding,” Ms. Cohen wrote. “But with the Democratic Party on the run leading up to the midterm elections and the disinformation campaign against the health care law being used as a rallying tool on the right, it is not surprising that antiabortion activists feel emboldened.”
In fact, the Smith bill is so sweeping, Ms. Cohen added, that it could be a “a clear political, communications and legal road map” for the anti-abortion movement.
Indeed, the Smith bill will be “the first order of business,” said Ms. Dannenfelser, noting that the House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” promised to “establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion,” and to “enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.”
The Smith bill does both those things, Ms. Dannenfelser said.
Ms. Cohen also said in her Guttmacher article that abortion battles will break out in state legislatures and even in private insurance companies.
Five states — Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee — have banned abortion coverage in state health exchange plans, even though those exchanges won’t be operational until 2014.
“We anticipate more of these [exchange ban] bills will be introduced in 2011,” said Dionne Scott, a spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which recently issued a summary of 2010 state legislative trends on abortion.
Given such negative pushback, it is “an open question” whether insurers will even attempt to offer abortion coverage, Ms. Cohen said.
Ms. Dannenfelser countered that while the Smith bill may well be a road map for federal pro-life strategies, there’s no such thing for states. There are too many variables in too many states for some single strategy, she said.
However, given the strong pro-life bent of the American people, as evidenced by polls, there’s no reason to not press hard on the “first priority” of any pro-life organization, which is to “detach any taxpayer money from abortion services,” Ms. Dannenfelser said.
There’s been “a sea change in our ability” to influence abortion debates and “we are seizing the moment,” she added.
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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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