Divergent predictions about the new abortion rules

    Figuring out how the health overhaul might affect abortion access is a lot like reading tea leaves. WHYY found out the prediction you get depends on the pundit you ask.

    Figuring out how the health overhaul might affect abortion access is a lot like reading tea leaves. WHYY found out the prediction you get depends on the pundit you ask.

    Abortion-rights advocate Melissa Weiler Gerber leads the group Women’s Way.

    Gerber: There are now new obstacles put in place to women who want to get abortion care.

    Maria Vitale is with the Pennsylvania ProLife Federation.

    Vitale: This would be an expansion of abortion, in fact, the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe versus Wade.

    The overhaul creates a new kind of government-subsidized coverage to help middle-income people purchase private insurance. Companies that participate in these new health insurance exchanges would be permitted to offer policies that include abortion coverage. But people who choose those plans – and get government help — would make two separate payments, one for abortion coverage another for the rest of their care.

    Melissa Weiler Gerber with Women’s Way worries that the “two-check” provision will stigmatize abortion even further and be unwieldy for consumers.

    Gerber: And even more so, it’s very cumbersome for the health care plans. Health care plans may not want to take on this additional administrative burden and just may opt out of providing this service.

    The health law requires that every state exchange offer at least one health plan that does not include abortion coverage, but …

    Gerber: It has no requirement that there has to be at least one plan that does cover abortion, and in a state like Pennsylvania with a conservative legislature, we have particular concerns that there could be no coverage offered.

    In early pregnancy and abortion can cost between $300 and $600.

    The health overhaul upholds existing law that bans federal funding of abortion except in limited cases. But the National Right to Life Committee says the overhaul allocates new funding for health centers and hard-to-insure people.

    Maria Vitale is part of the anti-abortion coalition, she says that new funding might not be bound by existing restrictions.

    Vitale: This legislation results in federal subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion which is public funding of abortion. We think that’s wrong, we know that there are public opinion polls that show that the majority of Americans believe that’s wrong.

    Even policy analysts without a stake in the abortion debate say it’s hard to know how the new rules will play out until they are tested by patients and interpreted by their insurance company.

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