It may be drawing support from both Democrats and Republicans, which is pretty rare in Congress these days, but House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's bipartisan deal, which seeks to replace the much-loathed existing Medicare system, still excludes one important group: pro-choice Americans. The current draft of the Boehner and Pelosi's Medicare bill includes an abortion provision that is souring the deal for many Democratic Senators and reproductive rights advocates. The provision is especially troubling coming from Pelosi, who has been a perennial supporter of abortion rights.
As Boehner and Pelosi, who are unlikely allies in legislation, prepare to finalize the deal that would repeal the existing Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reimbursement system for Medicare physicians, it was met with some opposition in the Senate on Thursday. Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid pointed out that the pending bill's abortion provision would put restrictions on abortions at community health centers. The abortion provision refers to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits using certain federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest. Though it's not a permanent law, it's a rider that can be attached to proposed bills. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden also expressed concern over the abortion language in the bill, arguing that it has "no place in a bill about access to care for America’s seniors and children."
Reproductive rights advocates have also sounded off on the Hyde Amendment. Kate Stewart, Vice President of Public Affairs at Advocates for Youth, said in a statement:
The Hyde Amendment creates insurmountable barriers for women who need to make important, personal decisions based on what is best for her circumstances.
Jessica González-Rojas, the Executive Director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, directly appealed to Congress:
The harm of the Hyde Amendment is real, with a disproportionate impact on Latinas and women of color. We urge Congress to stop using low-income women as a political bargaining chip.
Shivana Jorawar, Reproductive Justice Program Director at the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, echoed:
Once more, Congress launched an attack to interfere women women’s personal decision making. I hope the House will take a page from the Senate and stand strong against attempts to make abortion unaffordable and out of reach for women.
In response to the resistance from her fellow Democrats and advocates, Pelosi's office issued a statement saying that the deal's abortion provision would expire after two years and is no different from the existing restrictions on abortions at community health centers.
Perhaps even more alarming than the provision is Pelosi's accommodating stance on it, which is a stark contrast to her previous statements on abortion rights. Pelosi has always been vocal about her pro-choice position, saying in 2011 that the Protect Life Act would allow women to "die on the floor," shut down a reporter in 2013 when he asked about her "moral stance" on abortion, and spoke out against Texas's anti-abortion law that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks and requires them to be performed in surgical centers.
So for Pelosi to now take a backseat when abortion rights are in jeopardy is noticeably out of character. Perhaps, to her, the sweeping healthcare changes introduced in the Medicare bill outweigh the restrictions enforced by the provision. Committee leaders from both parties released a joint statement describing the deal:
The bipartisan, bicameral bill seeks to end the cycle of annual "Doc Fix" crises that have created uncertainty for millions of Medicare providers and beneficiaries for over a decade and also create a system that promotes higher quality care for America's seniors.
If passed, the deal would mark the most significant healthcare change since Obamacare, and a major accomplishment for the oft-discordant Congress. Images: Getty Images (4)