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Response to Nancy Keenan in Salon: Let’s Set the Record Straight on Millennials and Abortion. Again

12:54 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Nancy Keenan

Written by Julia Reticker-Flynn for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Another day, another article about whether or not Millennials care about access to safe abortion care, this time in the form of an interview with outgoing NARAL President Nancy Keenan in Salon in which the commitment of our generation to this issue is once again questioned.

It is time to put to rest the questioning about Millennials and whether they care about access to safe abortion care. It is time to get to work. Too much is at stake, too much ground has been lost, and, for far too many women, safe and affordable abortion care is out of their reach.

So, let’s set the record straight. Again.

Yes, Millennials care about ensuring access to safe, affordable abortion care. They care — deeply and passionately — and many are working tirelessly on this issue.

This generation of young people is more likely to care about the whole range of sexual health and rights issues than older generations. Whether we are talking about LGBT rights, contraception, or abortion, Millennials are taking center stage, and no one should doubt this or call it into question. This generation may just be the most pro-sexual health generation in U.S. history.

In fact, we find Millennials more supportive of access to abortion services in their communities — 68 percent compared with 58 percent adults overall. And, two thirds (67 percent) of Millennials of color agree that “regardless of how I personally feel about abortion, I believe it should remain legal, and women should be able to get safe abortions.” Three-quarters of African American (75 percent) and Asian Pacific Islanders (75 percent) young adults agree with the statement. Six in ten (59 percent) Latinos express support for legal abortion in response this question. 

But even more important, Millennials are showing up on the front lines of this issue.   

Millennials like Carly who did not stand by when anti-choice activists came to her campus but instead was motivated to build a strong base of support for abortion access at the University of Michigan. Carly has started facilitating small group sessions focused on discussing personal experiences with abortion and the ways to address stigma and promote access to safe abortion care. Millennials like Tyler and Eriauna at the University of Kentucky who are standing outside their local clinic every Saturday to ensure people can access services without fear or intimidation.   

Millennials like Delilah and Jess at the University of Virginia who talk to their peers in the center of campus holding signs that read “1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, these are our stories.”  

From campus activists to clinic escorts to hotline volunteers to directors of abortion funds to doulas to bloggers to policy advocates, Millennials are fearless, bold and innovative activists in support of abortion care.  We should not be ignored, and our commitment to abortion access should not be questioned.  

The work of Millennials — and in fact of the entire movement — will continue to be strengthened if we spend less time asking where they are and more time continuing to train young people in grassroots organizing, to mentor new leaders, to fund their work, and most importantly to respect and value their skills, energy, and leadership.   

Let’s get to work.

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Anti-Choice Blogger Cruelly Mocks Women’s Experiences

6:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Nancy Keenan for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is made up of pro-choice women and men across the United States who come together to protect a woman’s right to choose. These individuals are our backbone, and their stories remind us of why we do this work. Behind every statistic or heated argument about abortion is the experience of a real woman.

On our website, ProChoiceAmerica.org, we offer a safe space for people to share their stories because sharing stories is a way for our supporters to connect. Our Women’s Stories page gives powerful and heart-felt accounts of women’s personal lives and the difficult decisions they’ve made. As someone who talks with women about what it means to be pro-choice, I understand the courage it takes to share a story with us and the world.

That’s why I was deeply disgusted and outraged when I discovered that an anti-choice blogger mocked these personal stories through a series of "Parody Testimonials" blogs.

The blogger crudely and cruelly mocks the circumstances behind these women’s stories, even in situations where women’s lives and health were in danger.

Here is a selection from one "parody" that was particularly disturbing:

Dawn, 40

I got pregnant in the summer of 2008. My husband and I were thrilled. We had been trying for about 6 months and it finally happened.

At 11 weeks of gestation we found out that our son/daughter had anencephaly. We were devastated. We thought we wanted this child. We murdered our son/daughter two days later in a building which looked like a hospital (but where they murdered people instead of cared for them). A spineless, life-hating, unprotective man who had a Medical Doctorate in gynecology dilated my cervix and proceeded to cut my son/daughter up into several pieces. After this, the nurse informed him that all of my son’s/daughter’s body parts were present and accounted for. The "doctor" considered this a "condition not compatible with life" AND WHO WOULD after being cut up into so many pieces?!

[...]

I have worked for groups which favor the murder of unborn babies for the worst part of my life doing a variety of volunteer activities (lying, deceiving, coaxing, betraying my fellow woman, hating men and the babies that they helped us conceive… did I mention lying?) as well as giving money to spill more blood. I support murdering unborn babies in all circumstances (yes, especially those which are forced in China and other countries since they have more melanin than I do).

And here’s Dawn’s actual story:

I got pregnant in the summer of 2008. My husband and I were thrilled. We had been trying for about 6 months and it finally happened.

At 11 weeks of gestation we found out that the fetus had anencephaly. We were devastated. This was a very wanted child. We terminated the pregnancy two days later in a hospital. My OB performed the D&C. The doctor considered this a "condition not compatible with life."

[...]

p>I have worked for pro-choice causes for the better part of my life doing a variety of volunteer activities as well as donating money. I support choice in all circumstances.

We can’t let the actions of an anti-choice blogger intimidate or shame women into silence. Please take a moment to support the women who bravely shared their stories with us. Read some of our Women’s Stories and pick the story that you find most compelling. Share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use. Share it here at BlogForChoice and on other blogs you visit. When you post the story, please say, "I stand with [NAME] and here is her/his story."

Together, we can stand up for these brave women and against hate.

Unmasking Fake Clinics: The California Edition of 12th and Delaware

6:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Alexa Cole for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The premiere of HBO’s documentary 12th and Delaware marked the first time a mass audience got an inside look at a so-called “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC). Like many of you, I watched as the “counselor” at the CPC featured in the film manipulated and misled women in crisis situations. I still can’t get some of the scenes out of my mind, such as the one in which the CPC director tells a woman that going forward with her pregnancy could make her verbally abusive boyfriend change his behavior.

The film gave vivid examples of threats CPCs pose to women’s freedom and privacy, and I am glad it’s starting a conversation in the blogosphere and beyond—but, one thing bothers me. The documentary takes place in Fort Pierce, Florida, across the country from my state of California.

I work as a pro-choice advocate in California, so I often hear from friends that bad things going on in Florida or other parts of the country wouldn’t happen here. I mean, how could a CPC operate in California? It’s the most pro-choice state in the country, right? And if CPCs are here, they must be few and far between.

Well, CPCs are here, and I can relate to the manipulation that many women in the film were subjected to because I experienced it myself right here in my backyard.

During the summer months of 2009, NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation staff sent volunteers to CPCs around the state.  These volunteers posed as women who might be facing an unplanned pregnancy and who needed both a pregnancy test and knowledge of their options.  As volunteers on the project, they were trained to be unbiased and neutral throughout the investigation in order to ensure accuracy and after each visit filled out a lengthy debriefing form on everything they saw, spoke of, and read in the center.  

Their stories are troubling. One volunteer was told that “women who have abortions have strong reactions when they hear vacuums because they use vacuums to remove the fetus.” Another volunteer was asked if she “wanted to be branded as a loose woman…to have [her] name written on bathroom walls.”  Others’ questions about abortion and contraception were ignored or met with hostility and judgment. If and when abortion was brought into the conversation, CPC employees used delay tactics and graphic images to deter women from seeing abortion as an option. 

The results of this investigation, published by NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation in its report Unmasking Fake Clinics, demonstrate that the pro-choice state of California is under attack from the “fake clinic” arm of the anti-choice movement.  While only 59 percent of California counties have an abortion provider, 91 percent of California counties have at least one CPC. For women who are young, live in rural areas, or have low incomes, the “counseling” these centers provide may be the only resource available when they are faced with a decision that could affect the rest of their lives.  More than half of centers in this study specifically offer “free” counseling.  More than two-thirds of CPCs represent their counseling as unbiased, when in fact, our report documents that CPCs provided false information to women seeking assistance or information about abortion and birth control.  No matter how a person feels about the question of legal abortion, everyone can agree that women should never be misled when seeking information about pregnancy, birth control, abortion, or sexually transmitted diseases.  

NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation found that CPCs in California often use propaganda and delay tactics to dissuade women from considering birth-control or legal abortion.  These include misstating statistics about the effectiveness of condoms (60 percent of CPCs in the study advised that condoms are ineffective in reducing pregnancy and the transmission of certain STDs) or providing misinformation about the consequences of undergoing an abortion (85 percent of CPCs in the study advised that abortion increases the risk of infertility and that abortion leads to mental health problems).  Most troubling is that eschewing medical integrity seriously endangers women’s reproductive health, as it ultimately may delay women from seeking appropriate comprehensive medical care. 

NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation seeks to change this.  Many lawmakers at all levels of government have expressed interest in working on this issue.  Nationally, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act, which aims to prescribe rules prohibiting deceptive advertising of abortion services.  Locally, the organization is sharing these findings with community leaders around the state and hopes to work with city-level officials at passing ordinances similar to those in Baltimore and Austin.  Enacting more ordinances like these will help to offset another common deceptive strategy CPCs employ: just like the CPC in 12th & Delaware, many position themselves near or even next to legitimate clinics to confuse women intending to go to the reproductive-health care provider located on the same street.

While CPCs in California are currently not being held accountable for their deception, continuing to expose their practices through reports like Unmasking Fake Clinics provides women with the ability to make healthy decisions and lays the ground work for advocacy that will ensure these centers can no longer use misinformation and delay tactics to discourage women from pursuing safe, comprehensive, and legal options.

What’s happening in Florida, as seen in 12th and Delaware, is not only happening here in California but all over the country. NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation’s investigation highlights that though California has long been considered the top state for respecting women’s reproductive privacy, it is not immune to the threats that are being documented around the country.  

Common Ground on Abortion? Views from Under the Bus

6:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

There’s not a lot of talk of women’s rights this year at the 5th Annual Netroots Nation, a gathering of progressive politicians, pundits, reporters, bloggers and policy wonks.   Panels seem much more focused on immigration, net neutrality, environmental issues and financial regulation than about talking about the eroding rights of women in this country.  But that wasn’t true at The View from Under the Bus: The Search for Common Ground on Abortion, a panel moderated by Will Neville, Communications Director for Advocates for Youth. 

A large group of women of all ages, and a handful or two of men, watched and participated with applause, boos and even some tears as Sarah Audelo of Advocates for Youth, Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and women’s right blogging star Digby discussed the history “finding common ground” on abortion, the betrayal of our current leadership on reproductive rights, and what the future is looking like for women who need access to full reproductive healthcare.

Michelman, who was with NARAL for two decades, responded with fury to recent developments to eliminate abortion coverage altogether from the high-risk insurance pool. “How are we going to protect our fundamental rights if we allow our friends, our so-called friends to undo those rights?  This week the administration took aim at the most vulnerable of Americans. Excuse me!  This is from OUR friends?”

She had just as strong of words for the continuing attempt to find some sort of common ground when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.

“This craven mission for common ground, for bipartisanship, you compromise your own values,” stated Michelman. “In the 80’s we issued a challenge to the anti-choice movement – if you oppose abortion, you should be advocates for birth control, sex ed and better resources for women who choose to continue their pregnancies.  The problem was, the two sides start with very different value systems.  We were about what was ensuring the best for women.  We started in that place.  The other side starts in another place.  They are troubled by sex and religious morals.  Common ground couldn’t be established because we couldn’t even agree on values.  The only value they had is that abortion is wrong.  Women get thrown under the bus so we can find common ground with catholic bishops who destroyed healthcare.   Common ground has been used to set us back, not move us forward.”

Digby, of the blog Hullabaloo, which focuses on women’s rights and reproductive choice, was just as bothered by the administration’s preemptive caving on women’s healthcare. 

“We ended up with the Nelson amendment instead of the slightly less-bad Stupak amendment,” Digby said, explaining the rational behind originally forcing women to purchase their own additional abortion coverage or pay for abortions separately.   “It’s like we are telling the right, ‘We won’t let your good Christian money touch our slutty, tainted money.’”

So who is to blame for the receding of abortion access and reproductive rights?  Sadly, according to Michelman, the blame lies at the feet of our own “progressive” allies.  “ We took it off the table.  We’ve had decades now knowing that the other side’s intent is to stop women from having control over their reproductive lives, to control women, period.  They figure we have nowhere else to go.”

“What are we going to do,” Michelman joked.  “Go to the Republicans?”

One reason that abortion rights have eroded even faster under the current administration is its knee-jerk reaction to controversy, especially faux controversy engineered by the right-wing.  Michelman drew a parallel between the White House’s immediate firing of Shirley Sherrod over the manufactured racism charges brought about by the Andrew Breitbart edited videos to its capitulation on federal funding for abortion in the high-risk insurance pools. 

“The Right lie was ‘The administration is paying for abortions with federal money!’ and the White House has a panic attack.  ‘No we aren’t!’” she said.  After that, there was no coverage for women, regardless of the dangerous effects pregnancy could have on the heath and lives.

“[The administration] has taken abortion and demonized it even more,” pointed out Sarah Audelo, Policy Director for Advocates for Youth.  “Abortion is common ground.  One in three women have had an abortion.”

For each step forward we have taken for reproductive health since 2008, we’ve had to take a loss as well.  “We got sex ed, but then we got abstinence only education,” she said.  “We got pregnancy funds to help women have their babies, and [the right] gets upset because Planned Parenthood might somehow get money out of it.” 

“If you don’t want abortions, I’m going to have to have birth control covered,” Audelo argued.

“No,” responded Michelman. “You have to be a nun.”

Discussion eventually turned to the idea that the anti-choice movement’s true goal is “to end all abortions at any stage of pregnancy for every woman at any time. The end,” according to Michelman.  And that has now started simply by denying it to women who are poor and sick.

“It’s written in stone that poor women will never be granted the right to have healthcare that allows pregnancy termination.  It’s over.  We lost it,” Michelman declared.  “We are going to have a Roe v. Wade legal moment with poor women before we can ever get it back.”

It didn’t have to be that was, the panel explained.  Early in the Clinton administration, there was the chance to pass a reproductive choice amendment that would have codified Roe v. Wade into federal law, and made it impossible for states to pass legislation that chipped away at the ruling.  “We destroyed our own possibilities,” Michelman said.  “Some of us decided that we needed a three tier approach.  It would be the legal right, but not the funding, and minors’ rights would happen on a state by state basis.  We had everybody lined up and ready to go, but because it wasn’t all three pieces at once, some of the groups pulled away and some of the senators left.”

Once Democrats lost control of the House in 1994, any chance at passing such an amendment was over.

“There are times when you got to go when you have a chance,” said Michelman.  “Not a compromise.  It would have stripped the states of the right to deny access to abortion and birth control.”

Neville agreed.  “If we had pushed for [a reproductive choice amendment] now, it wouldn’t have succeeded, but when the dust settled we would have been in a very different place right now,” he argued, as we would have been advocating from a point of strength rather than giving up women’s reproductive rights before we even started the healthcare negotiations.

Instead, today we have more restrictions, more waiting periods, more hurdles and many fewer clinics, putting reproductive health less accessible than it has been in decades.  “It is ridiculous that my mother had easier access to abortion than I do right now,” said Audelo.

So how do we both keep our reproductive rights from eroding even farther and, hopefully, restore some of them as time progresses?  For one thing, we have to stop the silence when it comes to talking about abortions and abortion rights.  “The pro-choice message is not getting to the hill, and the pro-life movement is talking every day,” Audelo noted.  “We have to do this as a movement – you have to come out of the pro-choice closet.”

In the meantime, when it comes to abortion rights, is common ground a lost cause?  Perhaps Digby puts it best.

“I don’t want to share common ground with people like Sharron Angle.”

 

The Newsweek Article: Reflections by a Young Prochoice Activist

7:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Elise Higgins for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

My name is Elise, and I’m a pro-choice activist from Kansas. I have never-ending gratitude for those who have devoted their lives to reproductive rights. At the same time, I have some serious problems with comments made that disparage my generation’s involvement in the pro-choice movement.

For the last four years I’ve grown as an activist, surrounded myself with other activists and helped to train new activists at my school. I’ve pretty much devoted my college career to making a ruckus for reproductive justice. So imagine my surprise when I read Newsweek’s piece “Remember Roe! How can the next generation defend abortion rights when they don’t think abortion rights need defending?”

My peers and I are full-time feminists. We’re planting pro-choice gardens at the University of Northern Kentucky and throwing Sextivals at the University of Kansas. We’re working with organizations like Choice USA that lift up the voices of young people. We’re volunteering for local, statewide and national organizations. And we’re blowing up the Internet with the tools and information to create change. There are thousands of us working hard for the movement every day. How disappointing to find that those in positions that we will surely take someday doubt our passion.

We are more passionate than you can imagine. We know that the right to an abortion alone is meaningless without contraception, sex education and freedom from sexual assault and domestic violence. We’re expanding our understanding of “choice” and talking about all the ways that race, gender identity, class and sexual orientation impact reproduction, AND we’re doing it all while performing underpaid or unpaid labor that sustains giant, national pro-choice organizations.

Some say that millennials don’t view abortion as imperiled or in need of defense. I beg to differ with this massive generalization. Do I think we need to be defensive about our abortion rights? No. I think we need to launch some offense. From the Hyde Amendment to the Nelson Amendment, universal rights to safe abortions have eroded since Roe, and no one knows that better than young people. We are on the front lines; we’re victims of policies that marginalize poor people, queer people, people of color and people with disabilities. We’re more than aware that abortion rights are imperiled. We live that reality every day.

Meanwhile, about the moral complexity some claim that advocates haven’t quite grasped: I have never heard a pro-choice activist tell me that the decision to make an abortion is an easy one. In fact, from the beginning of my involvement in the pro-choice movement, great pains have been taken to demonstrate to me what a complex, difficult decision abortion is. I have been inside a clinic and heard the stories of women who have chosen abortion. Those experiences have only solidified my conviction that we must listen to Dr. Tiller’s words: Trust Women. No one understands the complexity of a reproductive decision better than the person making it.

One of my favorite things about the feminist movement in general and the pro-choice movement in particular is our tendency toward self-reflection. Self-reflection is only effective, though, when you listen to dissenting voices and not just your own. So take heed: Youth are advocating for choice, and the pro-choice movement must do better by us. Leaders in the movement need to acknowledge our contributions, and work to make us the movement’s next leaders.

Colorado Maternity Care Mandate Raises Pro-choice Hackles

6:36 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

While Congress and the White House dither on healthcare reform, state lawmakers across the country grapple with the practicalities of the uninsured, discriminatory gender rating and mandated care.

In Colorado, a seemingly feel-good bill to require insurance plans to cover maternity care and contraception is fraught with problems that could have and should have been solved by the long-delayed federal legislation.

However, in today’s highly charged political realm with spiraling state budget deficits and the lingering effects of a recession that just won’t quit, even motherhood and apple pie can’t get a unanimous vote in a crucial election year.

A reproductive healthcare mandate bill passed its first major hurdle on a largely party line 37-27 vote Tuesday in the Colorado House with some surprising defections by pro-choice lawmakers.

A peek behind the legislative sausage-making curtain exemplifies the deep political divisions being created with incremental approaches by states to fix an intractable and unsustainable national healthcare crisis.

Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, laid down a pre-vote challenge to conservative lawmakers to channel their much ballyhooed family values:

Will the anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-comprehensive sex education politicians vote their purported values, which they claim are about healthy babies and healthy families? House Bill 1021 provides a clear opportunity for these anti-choice lawmakers to enact responsible policies that can reduce the need for abortion by ensuring women have access to the prenatal care they need for healthy pregnancies.

Twenty-six of the "no" votes were cast by GOP members. None of the dozen Republican House members with longstanding anti-choice records who voted against the bill, including some who amended and approved it in committee days before, returned calls for comment. The amendments that significantly watered down the bill and specifically noted that abortion care was not covered were eventually thrown out by the House after flexing its 11-vote majority.

However, the biggest danger with the bill is the caustic stew of ideological posturing, political gamesmanship and over-promised and under-delivered healthcare reform that could leave a bitter taste in the mouths of an increasingly surly mid-term electorate.

Two unexpected opposition votes from pro-choice lawmakers are especially telling about the skittish local mood.

Concerns about insurance affordability for rural women

Rep. Ellen Roberts, a moderate Republican from rural southwest Colorado, expressed reservations about how the bill was being fast tracked through committee and ultimately voted against it.

"It’s not content specific," said Roberts explaining her pained vote against maternity care. "I’ve always been a strong supporter of women’s issues."

Roberts primary beef is the already limited options for rural communities to buy into healthcare plans. Few insurance carriers offer individual or small group plans in remote regions of the state. That’s coupled with broad public perceptions that a coverage mandate — even a widely popular one like maternity care — would increase premiums to the point of becoming unaffordable

"My constituents are contacting me seriously two to three times a week telling me ‘no more mandates’ because we are going to have to drop our insurance," said Roberts.

Those with the gold make the rules

The Durango Republican was also miffed that House Democratic leaders knuckled down and bypassed the state’s Commission on Mandated Health Benefits which provides nonpartisan cost benefit analysis to lawmakers.

"That’s the kind of information I need to make an educated vote," said Roberts acknowledging that both Republicans and Democrats alike have ignored the cumbersome committee when pushing though legislation. The 11-member commission of insurance experts, health policy advocates and consumers has been widely criticized for its slow pace in reviewing bills often introduced at a breakneck pace during the state’s three-month legislative session.

Roberts co-sponsored legislation with fellow Western Slope lawmaker Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, to reform the commission created by state statute in 2003 and which is set to expire in July.

They proposed handing the mandate review process to the nonpartisan Legislative Council and implementing a one-year timeout on any new state mandates while Congress sorts out its overdue national healthcare reform plan. The internal bickering over the mandate process at the state capitol became so heated that Curry, a staunch pro-choice Democrat, resigned from the party in December.

As expected, at the behest of statehouse leadership, their bill was killed in committee.

"Obviously in a political year you don’t enjoy making some of these votes because it will be used against you in the campaign cycle." said Roberts. "I can’t be guided by that. I have to try to do the right thing."

While Roberts and Curry duke it out over a seemingly obscure policy issue the state legislature risks losing two stalwart pro-choice voices. Roberts is term-limited and is seeking a Senate seat in a evenly partisan district. Meanwhile, Curry, who voted to support the maternity mandate bill, is now an unaffiliated candidate. She must petition onto the ballot to seek reelection in 2010. And she’s already drawn a conservative, anti-choice Republican challenger.

Solomon’s choice for a pro-choice Dem

The decision to vote against the mandate was also a difficult one for Rep. Jim Riesberg, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

"Primarily, I’m in support of what this bill is trying to do," explained Riesberg, a pro-choice Democrat from rural Greeley. "But what I’m more concerned about is the 700,000 people in Colorado who have no insurance whatsoever, many of whom are women."

Riesberg claims 85 percent of insured Colorado women already have access to maternity care in their policies. Yet, on the flipside, he said he would have supported a bill to solely mandate coverage of contraceptive care since that’s less likely to be covered by insurance than childbirth expenses.

"I’m very concerned that an insurance company would pay for a pregnancy but wouldn’t to tie a woman’s tubes," he said elaborating on his vote conundrum. "I mean that doesn’t make sense to me. I just hate to expand coverage for those who have something instead of expanding coverage for those who have nothing."

Riesberg also confirmed that the maternity care mandate will effect a very small number of women because many health insurance plans are not subject to Colorado law. About half of insured Coloradans have policies regulated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), such as self-funded employer insurance plan and publicly-funded programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and federal employee benefits.

Even the Colorado Division of Insurance can’t pinpoint the precise number of women with private insurance policies the mandate could potentially benefit. But both Roberts and Riesberg echoed the same concern: it’s likely that few women could afford to maintain their coverage with reproductive health mandates since premiums for individual plans are already skyrocketing with annual double-digit increases.

Despite Roberts and Riesberg’s concerns, the bill now moves to the Democratically-controlled Colorado Senate where the upper chamber co-sponsor predicts easy passage.

Senate sponsor vows to fight

"It’s a good strong health care bill for families that buy individual policies," remarked Sen. Joyce Foster. "For me, it’s my most important bill this session. This bill is long overdue."

Foster’s co-sponsor is Sen. Betty Boyd, a veteran lawmaker with a strong history of passing pro-choice, pro-family bills through the contentious chamber.

Foster is undaunted by the prospects of going up against a fierce ultra-conservative bloc of Republican senators whose anti-choice antics are legendary. Colorado Springs Sen. Dave Schultheis last year said the HIV testing of pregnant women encourages sexual promiscuity. Not to be outdone, a week later, Sens. Larry Liston and Kevin Lundberg raised the old, tired canard that oral contraception is just a fancy word for abortion.

"Bring ‘em on," she taunted.