Link to an article by Dr. Weitz on the new Nebraska law,
published in Science Progress, the on-line journal.
The Nebraska Legislature in session. Photo source: AP/Nati Harnik
Joining us now is Tracy Weitz. Tracy Weitz is a director at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. She is an associate professor at the University of California in San Francisco. Professor Weitz, thanks very much for joining us. I appreciate it.
TRACY WEITZ, DIRECTOR, BIXBY CENTER FOR GLOBAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: If the abortion language in the Senate bill stands, will there be federal funding for abortion?
WEITZ: No. There has never been a question about whether there would be federal funding for abortion.
MADDOW: Would we be maintaining the status quo in terms of access to abortion in this country - affordability, and access and all those issues? Or would those things actually be sliding back?
WEITZ: Unfortunately, things would be significantly sliding back. I think it`s important to remember that the status quo itself is harmful to women. It`s been harmful to women since it was first passed in 1976.
We have reduced access to abortion throughout this country. Eighty-seven percent of counties in this country do not have an abortion provider currently. The women who would be buying insurance in the exchange will no longer have the option to have that be covered with the two-check option that is the Nelson Amendment.
So I think it`s getting much worse. But I think it`s important to remember that it was bad before we started health care reform with regard to abortion financing in this country.
MADDOW: In terms of what you just said about the exchange and the other ways that things will be if the Senate language passes, can you explain what the Senate language will actually do? As far as I can read it, it seems like it`s asking people to specifically buy abortion insurance with their own money if they want to participate in any form of federally- assisted health care.
WEITZ: Well, I think it`s requiring that people pay two separate checks for their abortion for their insurance coverage. One check pays for the regular insurance. The other pays for the portion of the insurance that might potentially be needed to cover abortion.
So the two-check option, which separates out the money that could be used to cover abortion and the money that you need for other kinds of health care.
But I think it`s important, Rachel, to remember that abortion is fundamentally a service that women need and one in three women in this country will need at some point before the end of their reproductive years. It`s for an unplanned pregnancy. So most of us don`t buy insurance because we think we`re going to need something for something we`re not planning for.
MADDOW: Right. That`s sort of what this boils down to for me. And on the one hand, we`ve been talking a lot about Congressman Stupak wanting to make the abortion language even more restrictive.
But even with the Nelson language, who on earth would ever buy abortion insurance because nobody ever plans on having an abortion? It`s the sort of thing - it`s almost a self-defeating concept. So forgive me for being blunt about this, but I understand your point.
WEITZ: No. I think - I mean, it`s great that you`re covering this issue because I think many people fail to look at the sort of technical language. And as a result, they think, "Oh, well. Look, it`s not so bad." Or you know, people can buy insurance coverage for abortion if they want it.
But it`s a symbolic act. And it`s meant - I think fundamentally more than anything is to make the American public believe that health care and abortion are somehow different.
Remember, abortion is one of the most commonly used medical services for women during their reproductive years. But what we`re saying whether it`s with the Stupak Amendment or with the Nelson Amendment or with the ongoing Hyde Amendment is that abortion is not health care.
And that`s really the argument that they`re trying get the American public to understand in this. And that`s the symbolic nature of the Nelson Amendment. And unfortunately, it`s working.
Obama himself said this is a health bill. It`s not an abortion bill. But abortion is health care and it`s a health care service that many women need during the course of their life.
MADDOW: Picking up on one thing you said earlier, you mentioned that the small proportion of American counties in which there is even access to an abortion provider.
"The Michigan Messenger" has reported that in Congressman Bart Stupak`s own first district in Michigan, which is something like 33 counties. It`s a giant district. There are currently, by their reporting, no facilities that perform abortions at all.
His district is massive. And it seems to me that that`s the rule more than it is the exception in the country, that women, right now, have very difficult practical access to this service.
WEITZ: Correct. In the country today, 87 percent of counties don`t have an abortion provider. A third of women live in those counties. In Michigan, over 80 percent of the counties don`t have an abortion provider.
And again, 33 percent of women in Michigan live in a county without an abortion provider, meaning that they need to travel. And I think it`s not hard for people to understand that getting it from your house to an abortion provider that involves a long distance becomes a privilege for people who have economic resources.
And the folks who really may need abortion services and may need coverage for abortion now have to both get to the service and pay for it out of pocket on their own.
MADDOW: Tracy Weitz is a director at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. She is an associate professor at the University of California in San Francisco. Professor Weitz, it`s very helpful to have your insight on this issue on the show. Thanks very much for joining us.
WEITZ: Thank you for covering this important issue.
Watch the clip from the Rachel Maddow show with Dr. Weitz here.
UCSF Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health-ANSIRH
UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health
UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health
UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Health