Friday, March 12, 2010
For the Incredulous: Yes, ObamaCare DOES Require Taxpayer Support of Abortion
Long title, even longer post, but directly quoted from Nat'l Right-to-Life Committee backgrounder on the current ObamaCare proposal.
What follows is a thumbnail sketch of the major abortion policy problems in the Senate-passed health care bill (H.R. 3590).
-- The Senate bill departs from longstanding federal policy by authorizing tax subsidies to help tens of millions of Americans buy private health plans that could cover abortion on demand. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Ne.) attached to this provision a badly flawed requirement under which anyone enrolling in such plan would be required to make separate payments into an abortion fund. In a recent statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (which strongly opposes the bill) said, "The bill requires each American purchasing such a plan to make a separate payment to the insurer every month, solely to pay for other people's abortions. This is an enormous imposition on the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose abortion." In its first analysis of the Nelson language, NRLC recognized it as a convoluted bookkeeping scheme inconsistent with the principles of the Hyde Amendment. In January, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), a pro-abortion leader in the Senate, assured McClatchy News Service that the abortion surcharge requirement is only an "accounting procedure," and DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also assured pro-abortion listeners that the Nelson language was of no consequence. Yet today, in an effort to entice pro-life Democrats in the House to vote for the bill, the White House and Democratic leaders are working on "convincing as many as a dozen antiabortion Democrats in the House that abortion language in the Senate bill is more stringent than initially portrayed," according to a report in the March 5 Washington Post. The bottom line is that a vote for the Senate bill is a vote to subsidize the purchase of health plans that cover abortion on demand -- a sharp break from the principles of the Hyde Amendment and the Stupak Amendment.
-- The Senate bill would establish a new program under which a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), would administer private "multi-state" plans. It has been reported that the bill guarantees that one plan will be available everywhere that does not cover abortion. In fact, it guarantees no such thing, because even this narrow requirement is rigged to depend on annual renewal through a separate appropriations bill. Moreover, other plans in the federally administered program would be allowed to cover all abortions -- a break from the policy that has long governed the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, which is also administered by OPM. A vote for the Senate bill is a vote to put the federal government in the business of administering health plans that cover abortion on demand.
-- The Senate bill would empower federal political appointees to expand access to abortion by federal administrative decrees. The bill contains a bewildering array of provisions that grant authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other federal entities to issue binding regulations on various matters. One analyst recently wrote that the Senate bill “contains more than 2,500 references to powers and responsibilities of the secretary of health and human services,” to say nothing of other federal authorities. Some of these provisions could be employed in the future as authority for pro-abortion mandates, requiring health plans to cover abortion and/or provide expanded access to abortion, unless there is clear language to prevent it. One clear example is the Mikulski Amendment, under which any service listed as a "preventive" service by the Department of Health and Human Services must be provided (without copayments) in all types of private health plans. (Sec. 1001, pp. 20-21.) Sen. Mikulski refused to modify her amendment to exclude abortion from the scope of this mandate authority. (The Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, similar to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, would have prevented abortion mandates or subsidies under any provision of the bill -- but that amendment was tabled, 54-45, on December 8, 2009.) A vote for the Senate bill is a vote to empower federal political appointees to mandate unlimited abortion coverage in most private health plans.
-- The Senate bill would reauthorize all federal Indian health programs, without including language to prohibit funding of elective abortion, even though such an amendment (the Vitter Amendment, similar to the Stupak Amendment) was approved by the Senate when it last considered Indian health legislation on February 26, 2008. There is a clause in the Senate health bill [Sec. 10221, pp. 2175-2176] that has been misrepresented as an abortion restriction, but it actually contains no policy standard on abortion funding -- it merely "punts" the question to the annual appropriations process, an unacceptable approach. A vote for the Senate bill is a vote to open the door to future federal funding of abortion on demand through all Indian health programs.
-- The Senate bill lacks language to protect health care providers from being penalized for refusing to participate in providing abortions (known as the "Weldon language"), even though such language was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was included in Speaker Pelosi's original bill even before adoption of the Stupak Amendment. (See Section 259 of the House-passed H.R. 3962.) Yet, because such language is offensive to the pro-abortion lobby, it was excluded from the Senate bill. A vote for the Senate bill is a vote to abandon the strong position that the House took in favor of protecting the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers.
-- The Senate bill, due to a last-minute amendment, provides $7 billion for the nation's 1,250 Community Health Centers (CHCs), without any restriction whatever on the use of these federal funds to pay directly for abortion on demand. (These funds are both authorized and appropriated by the bill, and thus would be untouched by the "Hyde Amendment" that currently covers Medicaid funds that flow through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill.) Two pro-abortion groups, the Reproductive Health Access Project and the Abortion Access Project, are already actively campaigning for Community Health Centers to perform elective abortions. In short, the Senate bill would allow direct federal funding of abortion on demand through Community Health Centers. A memorandum documenting this issue in further detail is posted here: http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCmemoCommHealth.pdf
In a recent statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted that this provision alone could lead to "hundreds of thousands of abortions per year that taxpayers would be forced to pay for." In a story published in the March 4 Washington Times, Congressman Diana DeGette (D-Co.) called this concern "patently false," but White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass took a different tact, admitting at least the possibility of what she referred to as a "drafting issue that requires a technical change . . ."
-- The Senate bill contains additional pools of directly appropriated funds that are not covered by any limitations regarding abortion, including $5 billion for a temporary high-risk health insurance pool program (Sec. 1101 on pages 45-52) and $6 billion in grants for health co-ops (Sec. 1322, pp. 169-180). Only bill-wide, permanent language, such as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, can ensure that none of the vast amounts of federal money authorized and appropriated through the Senate bill are tapped by pro-abortion political appointees and bureaucrats to pay for abortion.