Speaking of Women's Rights: Two sides to the health care reform coin

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two sides to the health care reform coin

At this point, it’s not too surprising to hear news about reproductive rights being compromised in the context of health care reform. Even so, it came as an unpleasant shock last month when the Obama administration effectively banned abortion coverage for pools of high risk patients with pre-existing conditions. The women affected by this ban have already experienced serious medical issues, which means they are more likely to have high risk pregnancies. Their new insurance won’t cover abortion care for these patients; furthermore, they’ll be forbidden to purchase abortion coverage with their own money.

This week’s news brought a counterpoint. Thirty million women will benefit from health care reform over the course of the next decade, according to a study released by a private foundation.

The health care reform law we’ve got right now is imperfect, given that it compromises women’s reproductive rights. But on the other hand, according to the study:

Up to 15 million women who now are uninsured could gain subsidized coverage under the law. In addition, 14.5 million insured women will benefit from provisions that improve coverage or reduce premiums.

By increasing insurance coverage, covering women who had no insurance before, and reducing health care costs, the new law – however flawed – will improve healthcare access, and therefore life in general, for millions of women.

As we’ve discussed on Speaking of Women’s Rights before, the health care reform debate has been contentious, frustrating, and at times, kind of silly. But news like this is a reminder to have hope. Health care is a basic human right, and a piece of legislation that improves the lives of thirty million women is a good starting point on the long path toward equal rights for everyone.