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Women’s right to abortion and funding for critical healthcare services for women are being threatened by three bills currently pending in Congress, according to repesentatives of the National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles (NCJW/LA).
Members of several women’s health organizations and advocacy groups came together at the NCJW/LA headquarters on Fairfax Avenue on April 7 in a show of support for women around the country who would be impacted if the three federal bills — H.R. 3, H.R. 217, and H.R. 358 — are approved. The gathering was held on the same day that thousands of women demonstrated in Washington D.C. for reproductive rights.
“Thousands of people are marching today to stand up for freedom and social justice that women have fought for, and we are standing together with them in solidarity, ” said Lee Saltz, vice president of advocacy for the NCJW/LA. “We feel strongly that these bills could take back these rights that women have gained over many years. We are experiencing unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights.”
The bills include H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey). Existing legislation known as the Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funding for abortions, but it must be renewed each year, and H.R. 3 would make the ban permanent. Specifically, the bill would prohibit federal funds from being distributed to healthcare coverage plans that include abortions. The NCJW/LA and its allies have argued that the bill would severely restrict women’s right to choose, and would put millions of women at risk of having to endure unwanted or dangerous pregnancies, or visit unlicensed healthcare providers for an abortion. The groups claim the bill would also jeopardize employers’ ability to provide healthcare coverage, because companies that provide coverage that includes abortion would be penalized by having their taxes raised under the bill. The legislation has been passed by the House Judiciary Committee and will be considered by the full House of Representatives at a date that has yet to be scheduled.
H.R. 217, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, was authored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) and amends the Public Health Service Act to prohibit federal funds from being provided to any entity that provides abortions. H.R. 217 has been approved by the House committee on Energy and Commerce and has been referred to the House Committee on Health.
“This bill will result in millions of women losing access to comprehensive healthcare,” said Hillary Selvin, executive director of the NCJW/LA. “By restricting access to safe, affordable abortion services, many women will be forced to suffer life-endangering services.”
Another bill the NCJW/LA strongly opposes is H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act, authored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pennsylvania). The bill seeks to amend the Affordable Care Act to prohibit federal funds from being used to cover abortions. It would force insurance companies to drop abortion coverage for women, and would require hospitals to refuse to offer abortion services. H.R. 358 is also scheduled to be considered by the full house at a future date to be determined.
”It would allow for a right to refuse services to a woman whose life is in danger,” Selvin added. “The bottom line is all three bills are discriminatory, unjust and dangerous.”
West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land, who is also co-executive director for the Saban Free Clinic, said the bills would directly affect the clinic because it receives federal Title X funding.
“This is part of a comprehensive effort to do away with healthcare coverage, and it is especially an attack of women,” Land added. “Abortion is a legal procedure and there is no reason it should be taken away.”
Selvin vowed to continue the fight against the bills because she said they will set a precedent for stripping away other women’s rights.
“I think the threat is definitely going to continue. There is a compromise for the moment, but the reality is the federal government has to raise the debt limit, and the threat remains for cutting Title Ten funding,” Selvin said. “The reality is that the Republican-led House has made it clear that that they are going to try to cut spending to close the deficit and that they will forward their agenda.”
Both Land and Selvin encouraged people to write or contact their local federal representatives to voice opposition to the three bills. Selvin also said the NCJW/LA will continue its fight to protect women’s reproductive rights.
“If our government and the people in it are not going to support healthcare, then what kind of message are we sending,” Selvin added. “If these bills are passed, you will see more and more people fighting for the basic services. At the end of the day, we have to be able to support the programs in our community for people who can’t support themselves. The fight continues, and we will not stand down.”
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