We Must Hold Obama Admin Accountable on Health Care, Abortion Funding

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders   |   Oct 28, 2010   |   7:31PM   |   Washington, DC

Holding the Obama Administration Accountable during Implementation of Health Care Reform, Part 1

Why New HHS Regulations Prohibiting Taxpayer-Funded Abortions are Necessary and a Sign of More Battles to Come

Following an uproar by pro-life organizations over a discovery that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was approving state plans to use federal funds for elective abortions through a program created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), HHS issued a regulation prohibiting the use of these funds for abortions. 
This regulation of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Program (PCIP program, or “high risk pools”) includes a list of services for which coverage is “unequivocally prohibited,”  including “[a]bortion services except when the life of the woman would be endangered or when the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”  
Americans United for Life  issued a comment to HHS supporting the prohibition on the use of these funds for abortions and arguing that it should remain in place.
While we welcome HHS’ decision to prohibit the use of PCIP funds for abortions, we lament that this action was necessary.  If Congress had adopted a comprehensive prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortions and insurance plans that cover abortions in the new health care law, as they had the opportunity to do through the Stupak-Pitts Amendment which was included in the House version of health care reform but not the final bill, this regulation would have been unnecessary. 
In fact, this action by HHS is additional evidence that the health care reform law and the President’s executive order did not comprehensively prohibit federal funding for abortion under the PPACA.
Further, while this new regulation will prevent these particular federal funds from being used for abortions (barring a court decision that statutory language is necessary to prohibit such funding), Congress should remedy the mistake they made in March when they passed the PPACA without a comprehensive statutory prohibition on federal funding for abortion.
Without such a prohibition, abortion funding is going to continue to be an issue through other provisions in the law. 
In fact, Nancy-Ann DeParle wrote on the White House blog that “The [high risk pool] program’s restriction on abortion coverage is not a precedent for other programs or policies [covered by the health care reform law] given the unique, temporary nature of the program and the population it serves (emphasis added).”
DeParle’s statement is telling – the Administration is not promising to limit or prohibit federal funding for abortion under any provisions in the PPACA unless they are compelled to do so by public outcry – we must continue to vigilantly monitor their every move.  This ongoing battle is exactly what we warned Congress would be necessary if a broad statutory prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortions was not included in health care reform. 
Now, over six months later, here we are.