In her Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker described an amendment to the House's health care reform bill by anti-abortion members of Congress merely as a proposal “to exclude abortion from the bills” and suggested that a compromise provision in one of the versions of the House bills would change current law by allowing federally subsidized insurance plans to cover abortion as long as federal funds are not used. In fact, the anti-abortion proposal would effectively ban abortion coverage for those participating in health insurance plans that would be part of the proposed health insurance exchange -- including those who currently have such coverage -- and contrary to Parker's suggestion that "[s]egregating funding" would reverse current law, Medicaid already allows states to cover abortion so long as they don't use federal funds.
From Parker's September 6 Washington Post column:
As President Obama prepares to address Congress on health-care reform, America's pro-life movement is gassing up.
If Obama hasn't liked the tenor of town-hall meetings, wait until he meets pro-lifers at full throttle. They're planning a major drive (to exhaust the metaphor) next week to try to stop federal funding of abortion, as allowed under proposed health-care legislation.
Although the bills before Congress don't require federal funding of abortion, they do allow for funding in indirect -- possibly disingenuous -- ways.
Meanwhile, 20 House Democrats have signed a letter expressing concern about the abortion funding. Pro-life Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, who co-sponsored a failed amendment to exclude abortion from the bills, has said that as many as 39 Democrats may join him in trying to block any bill without the exclusion.
The other area of concern is with private insurance coverage that would compete with the public option. Although some insurance carriers would specifically not offer abortion coverage, others will. And because some Americans would be provided federal subsidies to buy coverage -- and could pick policies that cover the procedure -- the purity of Obama's statement that abortions are not funded under the plan gets diluted.
Segregating funding so that taxpayers' dollars don't get tainted by abortions is problematic, to say the least. And to people not overly concerned about how others handle their reproductive choices, the fuss may seem like so much hair-splitting. But this is hardly a new problem, and the decision to reverse a tradition of keeping the federal government out of abortion is unnecessarily divisive. Obama's incomplete response to concerns, meanwhile, falls somewhat shy of his commitment to transparency.
Anti-abortion proposal would cause people to lose insurance coverage for abortion
Parker claimed anti-abortion proposal would “exclude abortion from the bills.” Parker wrote: “Pro-life Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak [MI], who co-sponsored a failed amendment to exclude abortion from the bills, has said that as many as 39 Democrats may join him in trying to block any bill without the exclusion.” Parker later identified abortion coverage in “private insurance coverage that would compete with the public option” and receive federal subsidies as an “area of concern.”
Anti-abortion proposal would prohibit federal funds from being used “to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” Stupak's amendment, which was offered with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and was rejected by the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a 31-27 vote, stated that "[n]o funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used ... to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" except in cases of rape and incest and certain life-threatening circumstances.
Proposal would have prohibited plans that cover abortion from participating in exchange. As Media Matters for America has documented, as stated by a House staff description of the House bill, Section 112 "[r]equires guaranteed issue (no one can be denied health insurance)," and Section 112 applies to insurance “offered to individuals ... through the Health Insurance Exchange.” Thus, insurance companies participating in the exchange could not limit their plans to those who do not receive federal subsidies and would therefore effectively be barred from offering abortion coverage through the exchange.
Estimated 30 million people would obtain insurance through exchange and would not have access to abortion coverage, including some who have it now. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30 million people would participate in the exchanges, all of whom would, under the Stupak-Pitts proposal, therefore be barred from purchasing insurance that covers abortion regardless of whether they received subsidies. As Media Matters also noted, the Stupak amendment would also effectively cause a number of people who currently have abortion coverage to lose that coverage.
Compromise proposal's requirement of segregated funds is consistent with current law
Parker suggested that compromise proposal to “segregat[e] funding” for abortion would “reverse a tradition of keeping the federal government out of abortion.” Parker wrote of a proposal by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) that would segregate funds to make sure that federal subsidies “are not used for purposes of paying for” most abortions: “Segregating funding so that taxpayers' dollars don't get tainted by abortions is problematic, to say the least. And to people not overly concerned about how others handle their reproductive choices, the fuss may seem like so much hair-splitting. But this is hardly a new problem, and the decision to reverse a tradition of keeping the federal government out of abortion is unnecessarily divisive.”
In fact, Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal money to fund most abortions under Medicaid, but states can use state funds to cover abortions for Medicaid recipients in additional circumstances. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Hyde Amendment was originally passed to prohibit federal funding for abortions through the Medicaid program and has since been expanded to other areas. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the prohibition on federal funding for most abortions under Medicaid, according to a September 1 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 17 states provide coverage under Medicaid for “all or most medically necessary abortions,” not just abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. Therefore, in 17 states, Medicaid, a federally subsidized health care program, covers abortions in circumstances in which federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion.