Peter Steinfels on health-care reform & abortion.

When it comes to "abortion neutral" health-care reform legislation, Peter writes in today's New York Times, the status quo is in the eye of the beholder.

Currently the federal government does not pay for abortions underMedicaid, except in cases ofrape, incest or physical threat to the pregnant womans life, although states can do so. Similar bans apply to other federal programs.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits program, for example, is often cited by advocates of health care overhaul as a model for extending insurance coverage. It gives millions of federal employees, including members of Congress, a choice of hundreds of private insurance plans and pays most of the premiums. But no plans can include abortion in its benefit package except, again, in cases of rape, incest, or physical threat to the womans life.

For abortion opponents, abortion neutral means maintaining these restrictions, whether in the private plans that might receive federal subsidies in a proposed insurance exchange or in any public plan competing in this exchange.

Abortion opponents also want these restrictions spelled out explicitly, not left to court decisions or to the appointees of a president who has repeatedly described himself as pro-choice.

Not surprisingly, defenders of legal access to abortion see the status quo differently. They recognize the reality of the near total ban on federal financing of abortion. But they emphasize that millions of women are covered by insurance plans, mostly through employers, that pay for abortions.

As low-income individuals or as employees of small businesses, many of these women may qualify either for the subsidized private plans or the public option offered in an exchange. If abortion could not be included in any of those benefits packages, these women would lose the kind of coverage they have now.

For abortion rights advocates, that would not only constitute an unacceptable departure from the status quo, it would also violate the presidents principle that under an overhaul, people not lose their current coverage.

Read the whole piece right here.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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