Sep 12, 2009 12 Comments ›› Erik Wong
In his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama said the health care plan he is pushing will not provide federal money for abortions. But pro-life congressmen and Planned Parenthood agree that abortion would be covered under the plan under an amendment sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.).
â€œOne more misunderstanding I want to clear up,â€ Obama said Wednesday night. â€œUnder our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.â€
Pro-life members of Congress and Stop the Abortion Mandate, a coalition of pro-life groups, responded to Obamaâ€™s remarks at a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa..) co-sponsored an amendment with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would prohibited federal funding of abortion in the health care plan, but it was voted down by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Pitts said the bill will use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.
He also said an amendment sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) that was approved by the committee will actually mandate federal payment for elective abortions.
â€œThere has been some recent confusion surrounding the inclusion of abortion coverage in HR 3200, but the issue is really quite clear,â€ Pitts said at the press conference. â€œThe Capps Amendment, which some have argued is neutral on abortion, explicitly authorizes the federal government to directly fund elective abortions using federal funds drawn on a federal treasury account.
â€œSome have argued that HR 3200 will maintain the status quo on the issue of abortion,â€ Pitts said. â€œLet me be clear. This bill, in all of its forms, will radically expand federal policy with respect to abortion.â€
â€œThis legislation will not only expand the government funding, it will also provide additional venues,â€ Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J., above) said at the press conference. â€œThe language is very clear about having a private insurance provider–government subsidized through these affordability credits–that will provide abortions.â€
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Campaign, said that any money collected by the government are federal funds, including those that would be collected for government health care plans.
â€œThe reality is that the Obama-backed House bill would explicitly authorize the federal government insurance plan to pay for elective abortions and would explicitly authorize subsidies for private abortion insurance–and all with federal dollars, which are the only kind of dollars the federal government can spend,â€ Johnson said.
Johnsonâ€™s organization recently issued a memorandum on abortion and health care reform, including describing what it calls the â€œHyde Amendment Myth.â€ The Henry Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions through Medicaid, except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mothers. But the Hyde Amendment does not apply to the health-care bill.
â€œIn reality, the Hyde Amendment is not a government-wide law–it applies only to funds appropriated through the annual appropriations bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services,â€ says the memorandum.
Pro-life advocates arenâ€™t alone in their conclusion that the House bill will allow federally funded abortions.
The non-partisan Web site, Factcheck.org agreed in its own analysis of the bill.
â€œDespite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans,â€ the analysis said.
Planned Parenthood, which was assured by Obama during his presidential campaign that his health plan â€œwill provide essential services, including reproductive services,â€ has expressed its support for the House bill.
In a Sept. 3 article on the â€œDaily Kosâ€ Web site, Planned Parenthood Vice President Laurie Rubiner explained that the Capps amendment mandates that at least one insurance plan offering services to federally subsidized insurance purchasers must cover abortion. Rubiner described this as a compromise with what she called â€œanti-choiceâ€ groups. But the fact of the matter is that the amendmentâ€”even as described by Rubinerâ€”mandates that people buying health insurance with federal dollars be able to buy abortion coverage.
â€œIn late August, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) offered an amendment as a straightforward response to concerns raised by anti-choice groups. While no other medical procedure is singled out for exclusion in any of the bills, in order to move reform forward, anti-choice organizations needed an assurance that the medical commission cannot guarantee abortion coverage in every Exchange plan,â€ wrote Rubiner. â€œThatâ€™s why we did not oppose the Capps amendment that provides them with that assurance. It explicitly states that abortion will neither be mandated nor prohibited. It also mandates that every region will have at least one insurance plan that offers abortion coverage and one that does not, so people have a choice.â€
Pitts said he plans to ask the House Rules Committee to allow him to re-introduce the Stupak-Pitts amendment on the House floor when the bill comes up there. The amendment would essentially apply the provisions of the Hyde Amendment to the health-care bill.
â€œAll of the bills that have passed out of committee have failed to address abortion funding concerns,â€ Pitts said. â€œAnd if a bill is brought before the House that expands public funding for abortion, Bart and I will offer an amendment to the Rules Committee to maintain the current policy of prohibiting public funds flowing to abortion or plans that cover abortion.
â€œThis is not about the legality or the illegality of abortion,â€ Pitts said. â€œIt is about keeping the government out of the business of promoting abortion as health care.â€
â€œKilling human babies by abortion is not health care,â€ Smith said. â€œPublicly funding and facilitating abortion can in no way be construed as health care reform.â€