Abortion measure infuriates some locals


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Iowa City legislators and local women’s health advocates say they are infuriated by an addition to the House health-care bill that would restrict access to abortion coverage in the private insurance sector.

“I can’t think of a more blatant example of government getting involved in health-care decisions between a woman and her doctor,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City.

On Nov. 7, the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act — H.R. 3962 — which included a controversial amendment known as Stupak-Pitts. The amendment would keep women who get government subsidies for health insurance from purchasing private health plans that cover abortion, even with their own money.

The bill would also eliminate the option of abortion coverage in a government national insurance exchange, which the bill would create to allow individuals to shop for a health-care plans among different insurance providers. This exchange would provide more affordable options to individuals and employees of small businesses who otherwise can’t afford it, experts said.

Karen Kubby, the former executive director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, 227 N. Dubuque St., said she believes the amendment is a detrimental setback to women’s health.

“We need to understand that abortion is part of the reproductive health options for women,” she said. “This amendment is putting women’s sexual reproduction health and financial health at risk.”

The amendment would place more of a burden on nonprofit organizations, such as the Emma Goldman Clinic, that provide financial assistance to many women, she said. Clinics would have to find ways to raise more money to provide those services.

Rather than finding ways to come up with money to provide care to women in need, Kubby believes funds should be used for educational programs to prevent pregnancy and help people think about their sexual choices.

But proponents of the bill say it’s necessary for any health-care reform.

“The only thing that will prevent the health-care bill from being ‘an abortion bill’ is precisely the Stupak-Pitts Amendment,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee in a statement.

National officials and state legislators such as Bolkcom believe the House added the amendment as a compromise between Democrats and Republicans in order to get enough votes to pass the bill.

Iowa representatives were split on whether to add the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the bill.

House Democrats from Iowa — Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and Leonard Boswell — voted against the amendment. Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King voted for it.

Planned Parenthood has noted the amendment will disproportionately affect low-income women who already can’t afford coverage, as well as go one step further than the Hyde Amendment — passed in 1976 — which places a strict limitation on federal funds to pay for abortions.

Iowans can use federal funds for abortions in four instances — cases of rape, incest, fetal anomalies, and to save the woman’s life.

There were nearly 6,649 abortions in Iowa in 2007, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Center for Statistics.

One in four women will have an abortion sometime in their life, according to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The Senate will draft its own version of the bill, where the amendment has a chance to be cut.

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