Rhode Island Should Not Force Taxpayers to Fund Abortions

State   |   Barth Bracy   |   Apr 25, 2011   |   1:13PM   |   Providence, RI

The Obama health-care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), requires states to establish a “health insurance exchange.” Otherwise, the federal government will set one up for them. By default, health-insurance plans offering coverage for elective abortion may participate in a state’s exchange and receive government subsidies.

This radical departure from longstanding federal policy prohibiting public funding for elective abortion was occasioned by the failure of Congress to apply the prohibitions attached to other federal programs and revenue streams (e.g. Medicaid and the prohibition of plans covering elective abortion from the “exchange” for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, among others) to the massive new federal program and revenue stream created by the PPACA.

As a concession, Congress explicitly let each state legislature “opt out of abortion coverage” on their state exchange. While not addressing all the abortion problems in the PPACA, this provision would at least let states like Rhode Island, which currently prohibit the government from purchasing health-insurance plans that cover elective abortion, more closely adhere to the longstanding status quo regarding public funding for elective abortion.

The abortion language in Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed’s amended Health Benefit Exchange Bill seeks to maintain the status quo by using the congressional opt-out allowance, nothing more, and, in fact, significantly less. A good part of the language is taken, word for word, from existing Rhode Island law. Far from restricting access to abortion, the language allows for plans that cover abortion to be sold on the proposed state-created exchange, as long as they are not purchased with state or federal funds. Moreover, the language explicitly allows for a separate abortion rider to be offered. It is a far stretch indeed to consider this to be “pro-life” language.

Contrary to the fantastic assertions of abortion-industry pundits, this is not about a woman’s “right to choose” an abortion. A woman’s ability to choose an abortion does not demand that taxpayers subsidize insurance plans that cover abortion. The real issue at hand is whether Governor Chafee and the abortion caucus in the House will oppose Paiva Weed’s bill and thus try to force Rhode Islanders to pay for other people’s abortions.

LifeNews.com Note: Barth E. Bracy is executive director of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee.