The Obama administration has imposed a near-total abortion ban in Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs), also known as high-risk pools. It is particularly upsetting that the ban affects those covered under PCIPs. Since women who will be covered under these plans are necessarily those who have a serious medical condition, they are “at a heightened risk for needing an abortion for health reasons when compared to the general population.”
PCIPs, which states had to implement by mid-June, are a temporary measure to ensure that those who are “medically uninsurable” receive insurance coverage. In 2014, insurance companies will be forced to sell coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, but in the meantime PCIPs will ensure that those with such ailments as diabetes or cancer have insurance.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the health care reform bill that passed through Congress earlier this year – only places restrictions on abortion coverage through the exchange. The act does not specify any restrictions on abortion coverage for PCIPs. For this reason, a debate over whether or not PCIPs could provide abortion coverage ensued. The debate ended when the Obama administration announced that PCIPs will not provide abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or the endangerment of the life of the woman. The administration did not allow for any exceptions for state or private funds covering abortion through the plans.
Pennsylvania has played a central role in the debate. Pennsylvania approved a plan that potentially covered abortion. Though the plan specified that “elective” abortions would not be covered, the term “elective” was not defined and even referenced a statute that “allows an abortion if it is deemed ‘necessary’ by a physician based on ‘all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age) relevant to the well-being of the woman.’ The only situation deemed categorically unnecessary by the statute is sex selection.” Unfortunately, with the administration’s statement, Pennsylvania, like in all states, will not be allowed to provide abortions through its PCIP plan.
Though it is disheartening to hear that a pro-choice president agreed to limit women’s access to abortion, it may still be possible to reverse his decision. You can tell President Obama that limiting women’s access to a necessary medical procedure is unacceptable here.