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Statement of Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., President and CEO of SIECUS on Passage of the House Health Care Reform Bill

Novemeber 9, 2009 — This past weekend, the House’s health care bill passed by the narrowest of margins. Even with an overwhelming majority in the chamber, Democrats were barely able to rally enough support to pass the bill and, in the process, made worrisome concessions to extremist elements that considerably undermine the legislation. Most notably, the final bill included a last minute amendment concerning payment for abortion that targets women’s constitutionally protected right to chose. There are, however, some significant inclusions in the bill that, were they to become law, advance the sexual and reproductive health of the American people.   

One of the most important inclusions in the bill that passed on Saturday night, from our perspective here at SIECUS, is the inclusion of the Healthy Teens Initiative. SIECUS worked closely with Congress over the last several months to craft this provision, which will dedicate $50 million in funding to states for evidence-based programs designed to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The money would be administered by public health professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and given to states, which would be required to provide a match equal to one dollar for every four federal dollars received and then use the money or distribute it. This provision finally addresses the challenges to the health and well being of young people with programs that comprehensively address sexual health and behavior instead of the ideologically based and narrowly focused abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that dominated the last decade. We are grateful to the members of the House who are dedicated to comprehensive sexuality education, especially Chairman Waxman (D-CA) and Representative Capps (D-CA) for introducing the amendment in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The House bill also includes several provisions that represent positive steps toward ending discrimination against LGBT or HIV-positive individuals in the health care system. One section could serve to protect LGBT individuals from exclusion from health care coverage because of their sexual orientation, while another would end tax discrimination of health benefits for domestic partners. Furthermore, the bill contains the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which could save many lives by allowing states to use Medicaid money to treat individuals in the early stages of HIV infection instead of waiting until they develop AIDS. These, and other components of the bill, truly represent fixes to the broken healthcare system, and we applaud the members of Congress who support them.
At the same time, an anti-abortion amendment offered by Representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) was included in the final bill. This amendment would essentially prevent any private insurers that participate in a public exchange from paying for abortions, even if women pay for the insurance with their own private dollars. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in calling this amendment a gross perversion of the intent of this bill. Not only is the Stupak/Pitts amendment a direct attack against all women’s constitutionally protected right to choose, but it also targets the most poor and vulnerable women who desperately need the assistance of insurance to pay for abortions. 
We realize that the effort to reform healthcare is one of the most massive and complicated political undertakings in a generation, and that any bill that is signed by President Obama will contain myriad provisions that affect the lives of virtually every American. Because of this complexity and significance, we strongly encourage both the House and the Senate to take the remaining opportunities they have left to strengthen the bill, remove extraordinarily harmful provisions like the Stupak/Pitts amendment, and finally put the health and future of America above political posturing.
For more information, contact Patrick Malone at or (202)265-2405