Congressional Health Care Bills Allow Tax-Funded Abortions
On July 31, the House Energy and Commerce Committee removed an amendment from the House version of the bil that would have banned federal funding of abortion through government subsidized insurance programs except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
The same committee, later that day, passed another amendment that leaves it up to private insurers to choose whether to cover abortion, and at the same time, would require that health-care plans that do cover abortion be made available everywhere in the country.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joseph Pitts (D-Pa.), the authors of the pro-life amendment, succeeded in getting bipartisan support from conservative Democrats and Republicans on the committee for passage of the bill--only to be denied victory a few hours later when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called for another vote.
“No funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except” in the cases outlined under the Hyde amendment,” the amendment read.
Waxman, the powerful pro-abortion rights chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, invoked House rules that permitted him to call another vote.
The second vote resulted in Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) switching from “Yea” to “Nay.” Rep. Zack Space, a conservative Democrat from Ohio who did not cast a vote the first time around, voted “no,” which resulted in bringing down the amendment by a vote of 30-29.
After the Stupak-Pitts amendment was rejected, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced another amendment that would leave it up to private insurers whether they want to fund abortions using private money -- even if they are taking federally funded customers.
Part of her amendment--paragraph (4)(A)--would bar federal funds from being used by the Department of Health and Human Services to cover abortion services, if the “services” would be prohibited under the current Hyde amendment.
But paragraph (4)(B) of the bill would allow federal funding for “abortions for which the expenditure of federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is permitted, based on the law in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.”
Although the amendment neither forbids nor requires private health plans from covering abortion, it does call for the reform plan to include at least one plan that covers abortion and one that does not in every part of the country.
The House health-care bill requires that all health plans provide affordable premiums and cost-sharing “credits” for low-income individuals--otherwise known as “affordability credits”--but under the Capps amendment those government subsidies can not be used for abortions.
“Any affordability credits . . . are not used for purposes of paying for abortion services,” the amendment declares.
With regard to “the public option”--the government-run health insurance component of the health-care bill--the Capps amendment would allow funding of abortion services that are allowed under the Hyde Amendment – but would prohibit the use of “affordability credits” to pay for abortions.
“The public health insurance option shall provide coverage for services described in paragraph (4)(B),” the Capps amendment reads. “Nothing in this Act should be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage of services described in paragraph (4)(A),” the amendment says.
In the Senate, meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee approved an amendment on July 9 authored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) that requires insurance companies to include services for pregnant women and women in childbearing years as provided by groups like Planned Parenthood. The committee voted down an amendment offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch to forbid tax dollars to fund abortion.
Thus, tax-funded abortion are allowed under the Senate health care bill.
According to her amendment, “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall provide coverage for, and shall not impose any cost-sharing requirements (other than minimal costs sharing in accordance with guidelines developed by the Secretary) for, with respect to women (including pregnant and individuals of child bearing age), such additional preventive care and screenings not covered under section 2708 as provided for in guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration.”
The House Energy and Commerce committee is the last of three committees in the House to release its version of the health-care reform bill before the legislation is reconciled and voted on the floor.
After the House votes, the Senate must vote on its own version of the bill and will have to reconcile that with what the House passes.