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Health Law Rolls Back Abortion Rights, Groups Say

By Julie Rovner
NPR

Recent fights between anti-abortion groups could leave people with the impression that the new health overhaul law expands women’s access to abortion. But abortion-rights groups vehemently disagree.

“There are extraordinary things in health care reform for women,” says Judy Lichtman, a senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which supports abortion rights. “But all, I have to admit, come at the expense of women’s abortion rights, and that’s very sad.”

Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, agrees. “I think across the board this is a bill that is a pro-life bill and is going to lead to fewer rather than more abortions. And I think it’s very unfortunate that people who oppose this bill for other reasons are attacking it as an abortion-funding bill, which it definitely is not.”

Opponents Push To Fully Exclude Abortions

But abortion opponents are not satisfied with the restrictions on abortion already in the measure, particularly those on abortion coverage in private plans that will be sold in the new marketplaces known as health “exchanges.” So they are pushing one particular aspect of the new law. It lets states ban all abortion coverage in the exchanges.

Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, said her group wasted no time drawing up a model state law to that effect. They sent it out the day after Congress approved the health bill.

“It was a part of the legislation that states could opt out, and so we had a heads-up that this would be a window for us,” she said. “So we moved right in to make sure that we could equip states with the tools that they need to have the most effective opt-out possible.”

So far at least three states — Missouri, Tennessee and Louisiana — are already moving legislation to ban abortion coverage in the exchanges. And that’s even though the exchanges themselves don’t have to be up and running until the year 2014.

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