November 9, 2009
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) applauds the House of Representatives for passing a historic health care reform bill on Saturday, November 7, that includes major gains for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women and girls. With the House’s reform, insurance companies would no longer be able to discriminate based on gender or health status, Medicaid would be expanded to cover individuals at 150 percent of the federal poverty level, preventative care would be prioritized, and access to community-based, culturally and linguistically appropriate care would be increased.
We are troubled, however, that this bill bartered away a basic women’s health service, and caution the Senate and the White House to continue on the path to real reform and reject anti-immigrant and anti-choice provisions that only seek to derail the reform effort.
Bill Includes a Dramatic Rollback on Abortion Access
NAPAWF is outraged that a carefully crafted compromise agreement on abortion fell apart at the last minute. An anti-choice amendment known as the “Stupak Amendment” was voted into the final bill. If enacted, the provision would prohibit public money from being spent on any plan that covers abortion, even if paid for with private premium dollars. Approximately 87% of all private insurance plans currently cover abortion, yet the Stupak amendment will effectively restrict women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market because many insurance providers will simply stop offering abortion coverage. The Stupak amendment would disproportionately affect low-income women and women of color’s access to basic reproductive health care, as these groups of women are the most likely to need access to the public option or federal subsidies offered in the Exchange. As such, NAPAWF strongly opposes the Stupak amendment and urges Senate leadership to offer a final bill that does not compromise women’s access to abortion services.
House Avoids Divisive Vote on Immigration
Despite our disappointment with the inclusion of the Stupak amendment, NAPAWF is pleased that anti-immigrant proposals were not added in the final hours of House deliberations. API immigrant women and their families have a lot at stake in the health care reform debate, and we commend the Democratic leadership for resisting attempts by some members of Congress to bar undocumented immigrants from using their own money to purchase health insurance through the Exchange. By rejecting such anti-immigrant provisions, the House leadership demonstrated that wedge politics around immigration will not be tolerated. NAPAWF urges the Senate and the White House to ensure that, as health reform moves forward in Congress, the needs of immigrant communities and women are taken into consideration.
NAPAWF Helps Lead Last Minute Push for Reproductive Justice
In response to the news late Friday evening that Rep. Stupak would be allowed to offer his anti-choice amendment, NAPAWF, along with many other reproductive justice and ally organizations attending SisterSong’s Fifth Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, DC, organized last-minute visits to the legislative offices of House members who had expressed uncertainty as to how they would vote on the Stupak amendment and a possible anti-immigrant amendment. NAPAWF’s leadership and organizing efforts meant that 400 women of color and allies made legislative visits on Saturday afternoon, urging members and their staff to vote no on Stupak and no on any measure that would have imposed additional restrictions on immigrants to access health care. NAPAWF’s role in mobilizing conference participants on a dime is a strong testament to its role as a leader in policy advocacy, coalition-building and cross-movement strategies as health reform continues to move through Congress.