WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) openly backed the controversial organization Planned Parenthood recently as she spoke out recently on the need for health-care reform that would include expanded coverage of women's health issues.
"Under the current system, women can be turned down for health-care coverage because insurance companies would rather evade those costs," she said. "Pregnancy should never be a pre-existing condition. Such discrimination is unacceptable and contrary to the American values of equality."
The Senate Finance Committee last week approved the version of the Obama healthcare reform bill put forth by committee chairman Max Baucus, and it's now being debated by the full Senate.
The 10-year, $829 billion Baucus bill is widely considered as the health-care reform measure most likely to garner any semblance of bi-partisan support.
As part of negotiations with dissenting Republicans, Baucus stripped the legislation of the "public option" and replaced it with subsidies for those earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level.
But for Gillibrand, the conservative push to eliminate as many programs as possible represents a direct threat to expanded coverage of women's health issues.
"According to data provided by the National Woman's Law Center, under the current system a 25-year-old woman pays up to 45 percent more for the same or identical coverage," she said. "Some of the most essential services required by women are not covered by many insurance plans, such as child bearing, pap smears or mammograms."
Many Republican Senators are unhappy because some federal subsidies would likely go to insurance plans that do cover abortions under the Baucus proposal.
But for Gillibrand, women's health is about much more than obtaining an abortion. It's about access to basic health-care services.
"In my own state, over 400,000 New Yorkers receive health care from Planned Parenthood every year. Most are working adults who can't afford other services,"she said. "Our strategy for reform must protect these critical services that clinics provide - The health crisis is a life and death issue."
Due to the lack of a public option, 16 million Americans would still be left uninsured by the Baucus bill - a reduction of roughly 30 million citizens than at the present time.