Transcript of Sen. Al Franken's excellent statement on the Senate floor today (Dec. 7) regarding the Nelson-Hatch amendment to the health care reform bill (a vote on the amendment is expected tomorrow):
Women have abortions for different reasons. Some of these reasons may not seem right to some of us. But even if we disagree, it is better that each woman be able to make her own decision with her doctor. In a perfect world, no woman should have to face the decisions we are discussing today. But the reason we have insurance coverage is to deal with the unexpected. And no woman expects to have an unplanned pregnancy, and no woman expects to end a wanted pregnancy because of fetal anomalies, a risk to her own health. If we limit options in private health insurance coverage, we take away a woman's right to make a decision that may be right for her and her family in their circumstances.
But unplanned pregnancies do occur. And we have a responsibility to supply women, to provide women with the full range of choices regarding their health. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled on this issue and made it clear that women have a constitutional right to access abortion. It's our responsibility that abortions are safe, legal and rare.
Supporting a woman's right to make decisions about her health means more than keeping abortion services legal. It means supporting a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy safely and with dignity. It also means teaching honest, realistic sex education. It means the right to choose contraception. It means standing with women who choose to continue their pregnancies with the hope and expectation that a compassionate society will support them in their responsibility in raising a child. It's about respecting women's personal decisions and challenges they face, especially in times when they are the most vulnerable.
I strongly oppose the Nelson-Hatch amendment because it strongly undermines the status quo and breaks new ground by restricting women's fundamental rights. The amendment stipulates that health plans cannot cover abortion services if they accept even one subsidized customer, even if the abortion coverage would be paid with the private premiums that health plans receive directly from individuals.
If adopted, this would mark the first time in federal law that we would restrict how individuals can use their own dollars in the private health insurance marketplace. I also oppose the amendment because we have a workable solution. The existing compromise in our bill represents genuine concessions by both prochoice and prolife members of Congress. The current bill prohibits federal funding of abortion but also allows women to pay for abortion coverage with their own private funds. It makes clear that abortion can't be mandated or prohibited and stipulates that federal funds cannot be used for abortion.
Let me be clear. The compromise in the current bill is as far as we can go. We have negotiated to get to this point and we cannot negotiate further without literally undermining the compromise that we have made on behalf of women's health in this country.
We are on the verge of passing a historic health reform law that will do more to improve the health of women and families than any legislation in recent history. We will end discrimination based on health history, on gender, or on history of domestic violence. We will provide access to preventive health services so women can get annual exams and mammograms at no cost. And it is our responsibility to guarantee that women are not worse off under the health reform we're going to pass. That they're not worse off than they are today.
As my friend Paul Wellstone used to say, if we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them. I urge my colleagues to stand with me today to oppose this amendment. I yield the floor."