Analysis: How Nelson-Reid Compromise Allows Abortion Funding in Health Care
by Steven Ertelt
December 19, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life groups have spent most of Saturday morning furiously analyzing the Nelson-Reid compromise language on abortion funding in the Senate health care bill. Their conclusion is that the language undermines the amendments they wanted to ban abortion funding.
The compromise language appears in the manager’s amendment Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is offering to shore up the 60 votes he needs to overcome the filibuster against the pro-abortion health care bill.
Instead, Section 38 adds a provision allowing states to opt out of providing abortion coverage through the exchange and adds further layers of accounting requirements that pro-life groups are calling gimmicks to hide abortion funding.
The result remains the same and, contrary to longstanding policy, the federal government will subsidize private health insurance plans that cover abortion.
The manager’s amendment also strikes the public option and replaces it with a program similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) run by the Office of Personnel Management. However, unlike the FEHBP, the Director of OPM will contract with health insurance companies to provide insurance that includes abortion.
The National Right to Life Committee informed LifeNews.com it strongly opposes the abortion language and complained that "Reid intends to press for Senate approval of the language during the days immediately ahead, without allowing an opportunity for any revisions to be considered."
"The managers amendment is light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was approved by the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194," NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson told LifeNews.com. "The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems."
Because of these pro-abortion funding problems, National Right to Life promised it would "score the upcoming roll call votes on cloture on the Reid managers amendment, and on the underlying bill."
It would count them as "votes in favor of legislation to allow the federal government to subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortion on demand, to oversee multi-state plans that cover elective abortions, and to empower federal officials to mandate that private health plans cover abortions even if they do not accept subsidized enrollees, among other problems."
Meanwhile, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life came to the same conclusion about the new pro-abortion language in the Reid amendment.
She said "Reids amendment to the Senate health care bill absolutely fails to meet abortion and life protections that exist in current federal law and policy."
"It does not prevent federal funding of plans that include abortion coverage, it does not adequately protect health care providers who choose to exercise their rights of conscience, and it does not prevent government involvement in assisted suicide," she explained.
Yoest said the amendment "provides inadequate conscience protection, because it does not prohibit any government entity or program (federal, state, or local) from discriminating against health care providers that do not want to participate in abortions."
"Second, the amendment fails to address our concerns that under the Mikulski amendment," which allows the Obama administration to force insurance companies to pay for abortion.
"Third, the amendment allows insurance plans that cover abortions to receive government subsidies, which is a radical departure from existing law (which is not allowed under the Hyde Amendment and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program," the AUL leader continued.
While the amendment allows states to opt out of allowing private plans that include abortion coverage to participate in their exchanges, Yoest said the opt out provision makes abortion coverage normative.
"In other words, states will have to act to prevent subsidies from going to plans that cover abortions in their state, turning on its head the traditional federal approach to abortion," she said.
NRLC also promised to score votes on the final version of the bill produced by the conference committee between the House and Senate versions of the legislation "if the final bill produced by a House-Senate conference committee does not contain the Stupak-Pitts Amendment."
If the final bill funds abortions, "NRLC will score the House and Senate votes on the conference report as votes to allow federal mandates and subsidies for coverage of elective abortion."
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