Planned Parenthood says U.S. bishops have ‘hijacked’ health care reform with Stupak Amendment

Planned Parenthood says U.S. bishops have ‘hijacked’ health care reform with Stupak Amendment

Serrin Foster / Cecile Richards
Serrin Foster / Cecile Richards


Planned Parenthood has condemned the addition of the Stupak/Pitts Amendment to the U.S. House’s proposed health care reform legislation, saying it would undermine private health plans that cover abortion. One pro-life leader said the criticism, which characterized pro-lifers as hijackers, was an ‘over the top’ attempt at self-promotion.

Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, claimed in a Nov. 7 statement that the Stupak Amendment to Congress’ proposed health care bill has further reach than the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for most abortions.

She also charged that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and “anti-choice opponents” have been able to “hijack” health care reform in their “dedicated attempt” to ban all legal abortion. Richards characterized the USCCB as a hijacker twice in her 700-word statement.

“On behalf of the millions of women Planned Parenthood health centers serve, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has no choice but to oppose HR 3962,” Richards said, charging that the bill would violate President Obama’s promise that no one would be forced to lose his or her present coverage under health reform.

Saying the Stupak Amendment would eliminate private health insurance coverage of abortion, she claimed the majority of these plans currently offer abortion coverage.

Other sources have questioned this claim. In July, the Congressional Quarterly quoted Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s trade association.

“Most insurers offer plans that include this coverage but most employers choose not to offer it as part of their benefits package,” he said.

Kathleen Sebelius during her confirmation hearings to become Secretary for Health and Human Services in April told the Senate Finance Committee that private plans do not cover abortion except in “limited circumstances,” the New York Times reports.

Richards’ attack on the Stupak Amendment continued by saying its allowance for a separate, single-service rider to cover abortion is illogical because women do not plan to have unintended pregnancies or pregnancies that “require ending the pregnancy.”

She said it was “telling” that most House members who supported the Stupak Amendment do not support the overall legislation, alleging that they have used health care reform to advance their “extreme, ideological agenda.”

“Planned Parenthood applauds the members of Congress who stood up for women’s health and voted to oppose the Stupak/Pitts amendment. We will work with those members to rectify this travesty,” she commented.

Feminists for Life President Serrin M. Foster praised the passage of the Stupak Amendment, saying in a statement:

"Thanks to Members of Congress who led the effort and the activism of thousands of FFL members, women will not have to face additional pressure to have abortion. We can refocus our efforts on meaningful, holistic solutions that everyone can support."

Speaking with CNA in a Monday phone interview, Foster called the Stupak Amendment a “huge victory for women.”

“We were very pleased to see the leadership in a bipartisan fashion, from pro-life Democrats and pro-woman Republicans, who banded together to say that women deserve better than abortion and that abortion isn’t health care for women and is not good for children, obviously.”

“Abortion undermines women’s reproductive health,” Foster charged, saying that women need maternity coverage but abortion undermines this effort.

Government-offered abortion puts additional pressure on women to have abortion, she said, because it discourages “social remedies” such as securing jobs and support from the baby’s father while also providing clothes, food, transport, and educational accommodations to pregnant women in need.

Government-offered abortion would also help discourage a birthmother from considering adoption over abortion, she suggested.

“It’s a real disservice to women when they don’t have resources to make life-affirming choices.”

Foster said that Planned Parenthood’s attack on the Stupak Amendment was “over the top” and contained “a lot of hyperbole.” She thought it was an effort to rally their supporters to activism and fundraising and also to press President Obama for assistance.

“Women who’ve had an abortion understand that it changes their lives. It’s not about freedom, but about a memory that won’t go away for rest of their life.”

She said that Richards’ accusation that the U.S. bishops and “anti-choice” groups hijacked the health care legislation was “ridiculous.”

“This is not about hijacking anything. The overwhelming majority of Americans and Congressional Members said no to abortion,” Foster told CNA.

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