Congressional Health Care Bill Could Trump Missouri Law Against Abortion Funding
by Steven Ertelt
August 7, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — When it comes to the health care bills in Congress and the issue of abortion funding, the bills could have federal taxpayer dollars paying for abortions. But, as one Missouri pro-life advocate tells LifeNews.com, the health care bill could also trump state laws that prevent abortion funding.
Since 1983, Missouri has had a state law preventing abortion coverage in health insurance plans except to prevent the death of the mother.
The state only allows coverage for elective abortions when the insured person purchases an optional rider that requires an additional premium payment.
As Sam Lee, the head of Campaign Life Missouri, tells LifeNews.com, "This measure, of course, protects pro-life health insurance consumers in the state who are not forced to subsidize abortion coverage for other insured individuals in the health care plan."
Despite a legal challenge from abortion advocates, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the state statute in the 1992 case Coe v. Melahn.
But it may face a greater challenge in the form of the government-run health care bills pending in Congress.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, explaind how in a factsheet earlier this month.
"H.R. 3200 is clear that the federal standards for health plans (both the explicit standards in the bill, and future standards to be written by the Health Choices Commissioner) will preempt any state law preventing the application of any of the requirements of the first division," Johnson explains.
The first division is the first 215 pages of the bill.
"This pre-emption provision amounts to a hidden ‘Freedom of Choice Act’ (FOCA) that could be applied to nullify state limitations on abortion," Johnson says.
Although one House committee adopted an amendment that purports to remove that particular authority and has anti-premption language, the amendment does not appear in the other two versions of HR 3200.
The Senate bill also presents concerns as lawmakers in one committee in July voted to include abortions in that version of a national health care plan.
The amendment would require health insurance companies to contract with organizations like Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. Insurers would have to cover "essential community providers…that serve predominantly low-income, medically under-served individuals" such as Planned Parenthood.
The Senate HELP Committee also voted down four pro-life amendments, including one from Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to protect state laws limiting abortions and abortion funding from being nullified by federal law under the health care bill.
As a result, Johnson told LifeNews.com at the time that the Kennedy bill in the Senate "will provide federal funding for abortion on demand, and nullify state laws regulating abortion."
The Senate bill, unless it is changed on the Senate floor, says state laws are not overridden unless they conflict with the purposes of the federal law but laws that limit abortion funding would likely be declared as conflicting with federal lws requiring it.
In addition to the Missouri limits on abortion funding, Johnson explains that the Congressional bills can nullify laws "such as parental consent laws, waiting periods, and the like, since these would be regarded as impediments to a federally guaranteed ‘essential benefit.’
For Lee, gutting the Missouri limits on taxpayer-funding of abortion through health care plans would put state residents in the position of paying for the destruction of human life.
An abortion mandate in the health care reform bill would be devastating to Missouri pro-lifers, Lee said.
For over 25 years, Missouri law has protected health insurance consumers so no one is forced to subsidize abortion coverage in health plans. The federal proposal could supersede and completely undo Missouris pro-life protection," he added.
Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From LifeNews.com
Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report Receive a free daily email report from LifeNews.com with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.