The House approved legislation, the Protect Life Act, to stop abortion funding in Obamacare. Senate Democrats are not expected to approve the bill and, pro-abortion President Barack Obama is expected to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
Members voted 251-172 for the pro-life legislation, with 236 Republicans and 15 Democrats supporting the bill and 170 Democrats and two Republicans voting against it. (See how your member voted here).
H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, makes it clear that no funds authorized or appropriated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, may be used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage. It specifies that individual people or state or local governments must purchase a separate elective abortion rider or insurance coverage that includes elective abortion but only as long as that is done with private funds and not monies authorized by Obamacare.
Much of the debate surrounded whether or not the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal taxpayer funding of abortions only in discretionary spending related to the HHS department, applied to Obamacare. As the Associated Press confirmed in 2009, it does not.
“Currently a law called the Hyde amendment bars federal funding for abortion – except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered – and applies those restrictions to Medicaid,” AP writer Erica Werner reports. “Separate laws apply the restrictions to the federal employee health plan and military and other programs.”
“But the Democrats’ health overhaul bill would create a new stream of federal funding not covered by the restrictions,” AP confirms.
Other debate covered whether Obama’s executive order would de-fund abortions under the bill, which it does not.
The bill also specifies that insurance issuers may offer health plans that include elective abortion and may offer separate elective abortion riders, so long as they ensure PPACA funds are not used for premiums or administrative costs. The bill also clarifies that issuers who offer elective abortion coverage must also offer a qualified health benefits plan that is identical except that it does not cover elective abortion.
The pro-life measure also ensures that state laws “protecting conscience rights, restricting or prohibiting abortion or coverage or funding of abortion, or establishing procedural requirements on abortion” are not abrogated by Obamacare. It also makes it so any state or local governments receiving funding under Obamacare may not subject any health care entity to discrimination or require any health plan to subject any entity to discrimination on the basis that it refuses to undergo abortion training, refuses to require abortion training, refuses to perform or pay for abortions, or refuses to provide abortion referrals.
Republican Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, is the chief sponsor of the measure.
The Obama administration released a Statement of Administration Policy today threatening to veto the measure. The Obama administration statement says: “The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because, as previously stated in the Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3, the legislation intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today.”
Obama officials rely on the disproved argument that Obamacare, and a subsequent executive order Obama signed related to it, prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions under the law, even though pro-life groups almost unanimously say the bill and the order are not sufficient to stop abortion funding.
“The Affordable Care Act preserved this prohibition and included policies to ensure that Federal funding is segregated from any private dollars used to fund abortions for which Federal funding is prohibited,” the administration claims. “The President’s Executive Order 13535 reinforces that Federal funding cannot be used for abortions (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and ensures proper enforcement of this policy.”
Obama officials issued the veto threat, saying, “H.R. 358 goes well beyond the safeguards found in current law and reinforced in the President’s Executive Order by restricting women’s private insurance choices. If the President is presented with H.R. 358, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Should Obama veto the bill, he would violate his own promise to support a ban on abortion funding under Obamacare.
On September 9, 2009, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and claimed about the Obamacare legislation: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up—under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
During the committee hearing earlier this year, Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law, and a former spokeswoman for the pro-life office of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops testified on the pro-life side along with Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.
On the pro-abortion side, Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University testifed again for committee Democrats. Rosenbaum was embarrassed on Tuesday in the hearing on the taxpayer funding abortion ban when she was unable to answer questions about whether gruesome late abortions should be funded with taxpayer dollars.
The Protect Life Act has been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, CatholicVote, USCCB, the Catholic Health Association (CHA), and numerous national and state pro-life organizations and leaders.