The fight for health care reform has reached its last stage, and the bills passed by the House and the Senate are currently being merged by Democratic leadership. It has been long and it has been tough, and now we are advocating for the best possible result even though closed-door meetings have replaced an open conference process. Our efforts have not led us where we would have liked given the momentous opportunity that health care reform presented. Certainly, the final bill will contain a number of key provisions that will improve the way people access health care by ending pre-existing conditions exclusions, expanding Medicaid, and ending gender-rating (the practice of charging women more than men for similar policies). Although we knew from the beginning that this legislation would not create a system of truly universal health care, we dedicated our best efforts into improving reform options for Latinas and their families.
Activists and staff from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) have been engaging legislators in DC and in their home districts on a weekly basis with visits, letters and phone calls. We are reminding them that Latinas do want and need abortion coverage, and that immigrant families must be able to access the health care system.
We will not stand silent as this battle is fought on the bodies of women and immigrants. For the past several years NLIRH has been fighting to repeal the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion coverage, except in the case of rape, incest or life endangerment of a woman. Though the amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) in the House bill represented a compromise that maintained the status quo established by the Hyde Amendment, it was a compromise we were willing to make so that the health care reform process would not come to a halt. For some in Congress, the painful concession in Capps was not enough. The amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) in the House and the “compromise” by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) in the Senate stopped just short of banning abortion coverage in private insurance policies. If either Stupak or Nelson’s provisions are included in the final bill, health care reform will enact some of the most egregious and detrimental setbacks to abortion rights since the seventies. Latinas, immigrants, and women of color are deeply affected by any language restricting abortion access. Because women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor, they are less likely to be able to pay for reproductive care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk for seeking alternative, unsafe abortion methods.
NLIRH will continue to advocate for real and meaningful health care reform. We are still working tirelessly by organizing our base and reaching out to key legislators to let them know that women and immigrants must not be left out. Thank you for your continued support – we cannot do this without you. La lucha sigue!
The NLIRH team