Friday July 16, 2010

NARAL Enraged, USCCB Cautiously Pleased with HHS ‘Clarification’ on High-Risk Pool Abortion Funding

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2010 ( – Abortion advocates are fuming that the Obama administration has moved to implement a “Stupak-style” ban on funding abortions in state high-risk insurance pools under the federal health care law, prompted by the National Right to Life Committee’s (NRLC) exposure of the issue and resulting media attention.

“To our dismay, the Obama administration just announced it will exclude abortion coverage in the temporary health-insurance pools that will transition us into the new health-care system,” wrote NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan in an email to constituents Thursday. “I am outraged that such a decision would come from a pro-choice president that we helped elect.”

Keenan’s announcement refers to the federal Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs), which are meant to provide insurance to individuals with pre-existing conditions until the insurance health exchange takes effect in 2014. After Pennsylvania proposed a scheme to implement the federally funded PCIP, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) pointed to language that they said signaled the first instance of taxpayer-funded abortion under Obama’s health care law.

However, the HHS immediately issued a statement Thursday asserting: “In Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.” The statement also suggested that such restrictions were already in accord with the federal health care law and “the President’s related Executive Order more generally.”

In another case in New Mexico, media attention forced the state to backpedal on its abortion coverage. When the Associated Press revealed that the state’s plan would include “elective termination of pregnancy” as a covered benefit of their federally-subsidized plan, a spokeswoman said that the state was “in the process of correcting the package so it will not have elective abortion coverage,” after initially telling the AP that the coverage would remain.

NRLC’s Douglas Johnson told that, “It is certainly clear that they were not imposing any abortion restrictions until now, until it became a matter of controversy.”

“They were not applying any kind of guidance that would keep states from submitting such a plan [approving abortion coverage], and they weren’t denying approval when a state did submit such a plan,” he said.

Abortion advocates had worked tirelessly in the lead-up to the health care law’s passage to ensure that abortions would be included in federally subsidized programs, vigorously fighting verbiage known as the Stupak language that applied Hyde-amendment restrictions to the use of federal funds for the procedure. While the Obama administration later touted an Executive Order as sealing off the bill’s abortion funding to meet pro-lifers’ wishes, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who had led the fight against the Stupak language, dismissed the Order as a “symbolic gesture.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), whose assessment of the Order agreed with Richards’, has praised the recent HHS statement applying Hyde-amendment restrictions to the high-risk pools – but did not buy the administration’s claim that the restrictions had already been in place.

“We welcome this new policy,” said USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, “while continuing to be gravely concerned that it was not issued until after some states had announced that pro-abortion health plans were approved and had begun to enroll patients.”

Dinardo said the situation “illustrates once again the need for Congress to enact legislation clearly stating once and for all that funds appropriated by PPACA will not pay for abortions or for insurance coverage that includes abortion.” “The issue of government involvement in the taking of innocent human life should not remain subject to the changeable discretion of executive officials or depend on the continued vigilance of pro-life advocates,” he said.

The USCCB has been urging passage of the Protect Life Act, which would clearly apply Hyde-amendment restrictions to the federal health care law.

See previous coverage:

HHS Moves to Block Abortion Funding in High-Risk Pools Following Controversy

Obamacare to Pay for Abortions under New $160 Million Pennsylvania Program

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