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Senate Health Care Bill Must Protect Women's Reproductive Health

Saperstein: “The Senate must pass health insurance reform that meets the needs of all Americans and repudiate dangerous anti-choice amendments that restrict access to reproductive health care services.”

Contact: Kate Bigam or Rebecca Katz
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 18, 2009 – Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recently sent a letter to the full Senate in support of comprehensive health insurance reform legislation that protects women’s reproductive health. The full text of Rabbi Saperstein’s letter follows:

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, we urge you to support health insurance reform legislation that ensures high-quality, affordable care for all and removes the dangerous, anti-choice provisions included in House bill in the form of the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  (Amended (in part) to H.R. 3962, Division A, Title II, Subtitle F, Sections 258 & 259 and inserted, new, Section 265).

Health insurance reform has been a priority issue for the Reform Jewish Movement for decades.  Just last week at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial conference in Toronto, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously in support of the House health bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Our nation is now closer than ever to addressing the challenges presented by our broken health system. Rising costs have left a growing number of people without adequate care, including the over 47 million Americans who went without health insurance at some point last year. Today, an estimated 23 million families spend more than 10% of their annual income to obtain health insurance; because of high premiums and co-pays, many under-insured Americans are forced to choose between feeding their families and paying for necessary health care. Moreover, the costs of health care threaten the financial well-being of millions of individuals and families, as well as the long-term financial stability of our nation.

The solution to the challenges of the uninsured and spiraling costs is to provide universal, comprehensive coverage.  To be truly comprehensive, health insurance reform must prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, a practice that encumbers countless Americans with undue financial and health burdens. Reform must include long-term community services, support for people with disabilities and the elderly, and end Medicaid’s institutional bias by incorporating the Community First Choice Option. Health care must also be affordable: subsidies to assist low-income families in purchasing quality care must accompany limits on premiums and out-of-pocket health costs. A strong public insurance option through which the government will compete alongside private insurers would do much to hold down costs and also set standards for quality of care.

Quality care means access to care for both men and women.  The Reform Movement’s commitment to women’s reproductive health is related to our longstanding commitment to universal health care.  The anti-choice provision of the House bill (H.R. 3962) (introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA)), if included in the final bill, would effectively deny coverage for abortion services to women covered by the new federal health care plan. This provision would leave millions of American women with less adequate coverage than before reform. Women receiving federal funds to subsidize their health care expenses would lose their right to use those funds to access needed care.  Instead of advancing health care, the House bill as passed with this anti-choice amendment, rolls it back in violation of the spirit of the rights enshrined in Roe vs. Wade.  The Senate must pass health insurance reform that meets the needs of all Americans and repudiate dangerous anti-choice amendments that restrict access to reproductive health care services.

Jewish tradition is emphatic on the subject of health care: communities are responsible for providing health care for their vulnerable members. When individuals in our society fall ill, our responsibility expands to ensure that medical resources are available at an affordable cost to those who need them. Tradition also teaches that women are commanded to care for the health and well-being of their bodies above all else; health insurance reform should not inhibit women’s ability to fulfill that mandate.  These teachings inspire our belief in the importance of health insurance reform that expands coverage.  As Americans, we also believe deeply in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, none of which are fully realized when 90 million Americans suffer the burden of being uninsured.

We look forward to working with you to pass meaningful, comprehensive health reform this year.

Sincerely,
/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.



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