Defending Women’s Rights in Health Insurance Reform

Rep. Nadler addresses pro-choice activists in the Dirksen Senate office building who oppose amendments to the health reform bill that would restrict a woman's right to choose.

As we enter the final stages of the debate on health insurance reform, opponents of reform have used a variety of ugly tactics to argue against our sweeping – and necessary – legislation.  Among the ugliest of these tactics was an amendment to the health insurance bill that would greatly restrict access to reproductive care.

I have long defended a woman’s right to choose and have vehemently opposed this anti-choice amendment.  The amendment would limit the ability of low- to moderate-income women to obtain abortion services if they buy health coverage in the nationwide insurance exchange or use affordability credits to purchase insurance. As such, this discriminatory provision would deny essential health care to the very people that health insurance reform is supposed to benefit.

The amendment is all the more troubling in light of the fact that the underlying bill would do so much to support women’s health.  The health insurance reform bill would end the unconscionable practice of classifying domestic violence as a preexisting condition, eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for preventive services like mammograms, prohibit plans from charging women more than men for the same health coverage, and guarantee coverage for maternity care.

We must not allow these important advances for women’s health to be overshadowed by a devastating blow to women’s rights.  If the anti-choice amendment is included, that is exactly what we risk.

I voted against the anti-choice amendment to the House bill and a similar measure was defeated in the Senate.  I will continue to oppose any restrictions on the right to choose in the final bill because if we are to truly have health care for all, we cannot abandon women in the process. 

Addressing the Greatest Threat to Civil Liberties

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved what I believe to be the most important civil liberties bill to be considered by Congress this year.  The State Secret Protection Act, which I introduced in February, would prohibit a court from dismissing a lawsuit simply because an Administration claims that the very consideration of the case would compromise state secrets.  While the state secrets privilege is an important tool for protecting the nation’s security, it must not be abused to cover up embarrassing or potentially illegal actions.  This is why a secure court review is necessary to protect civil liberties.

The State Secret Protection Act would outline procedures for courts to convene in secret sessions so as to grant or refuse the government’s demands to suppress evidence on national security grounds and would prohibit the premature dismissal of a case at the outset.  These common sense reforms would protect the government’s ability to defend sensitive intelligence while safeguarding our civil liberties from abuse.

There can be no due process or individual rights if the Executive branch is allowed to do anything it wants behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy.  If the Executive can have any case dismissed on the mere incantation of the magic phrase “state secrets,” then the courts are powerless to protect our constitutional rights.  In order for the rule of law to have any meaning, individual liberties and rights must be enforceable in our courts.  My bill would make sure that this is the case.


Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

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