For immediate release:
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
For more information:
Federal Legislation Department
AP confirms: Obama plan would allow abortion
the Associated Press accurately reports in a new
story below, the health care legislation being
pushed by the Obama White House would cover elective
abortions. Under the Senate bill, sponsored by
Senator Kennedy, "the public plan -- and private
insurance offered in the exchange -- would be
allowed to cover abortion, without funding
restrictions," the AP reports. Phony "compromise"
language approved by a House committee, over
pro-life objections (the Capps Amendment), would
authorize the new government-run "public plan" to
cover elective abortions, and also permit new
federal premium subsidies to flow to private plans
that cover elective abortions. "Under
either the Senate bill or the House bill, the
federal government would run a huge system of
subsidizing elective abortion,"
said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. For
further information and documentation, visit the
NRLC Legislative Action Center at
August 5, 2009
Gov't insurance would allow coverage for abortion
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR (AP)
August 5, 2009
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Health care legislation before Congress
would allow a new government-sponsored insurance
plan to cover abortions, a decision that would
affect millions of women and recast federal policy
on the divisive issue.
Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to
cases involving rape, incest or danger to the life
of the mother. Abortion opponents say those
restrictions should carry over to any health
insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned
under the legislation, an exchange where people
would choose private coverage or the public plan.
Abortion rights supporters say that would have the
effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions
of women who now have it through workplace insurance
and are expected to join the exchange.
Advocates on both sides are preparing for a renewed
battle over abortion, which could jeopardize
political support for President Barack Obama's
health care initiative aimed at covering nearly 50
million uninsured and restraining medical costs. The
dispute could come to a head with House and Senate
floor votes on abortion this fall, a prospect that
many lawmakers would like to avoid.
"We want to see people who have no health insurance
get it, but this is a sticking point," said Richard
Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life
activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops. "We don't want health care reform to be the
vehicle for mandating abortion." The church can't
accept a public plan that covers abortion, he said.
Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice
America, said abortion opponents "want an abortion
ban in private insurance, and that's not neutrality
at all — that's a radical departure from current
law. They want something far more extreme than where
I think the American public is."
A compromise approved by a House committee last week
attempted to balance questions of federal funding,
personal choice and the conscience rights of
clinicians. It would allow the public plan to cover
abortion but without using federal funds, only
dollars from beneficiary premiums. Likewise, private
plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to
cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be
used to pay for the procedure.
"It's a sham," said Douglas Johnson, legislative
director for National Right to Life. "It's a
bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and
the government subsidizes the plan."
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., author of the compromise,
said she was trying to craft a solution that would
accommodate both sides. Her amendment also would
allow plans that covered no abortions whatsoever —
not even in cases of rape, incest or to save the
life of the mother — to be offered through the
"With all due respect, not everyone adheres to what
the Catholic bishops believe," said Capps, who
supports abortion rights. "Our country allows for
both sides, and our health plan should reflect that
But Senate staffers said Capps' compromise is
unacceptable to Republican senators.
For years, abortion rights supporters and abortion
opponents have waged the equivalent of trench
warfare over restrictions on federal funding.
Abortion opponents have largely prevailed,
instituting restrictions that bar federal funding
for abortion, except in cases of rape and incest or
if the mother's life would be endangered.
A law called the Hyde amendment applies the
restrictions to Medicaid, forcing states that cover
abortion for low-income women to do so with their
own money. Separate laws apply the restrictions to
the federal employee health plan and military and
The health overhaul would create a stream of federal
funding not covered by the restrictions.
The new federal funds would take the form of
subsidies for low- and middle-income people buying
coverage through the health insurance exchange.
Subsidies would be available for people to buy the
public plan or private coverage. Making things more
complicated, the federal subsidies would be mixed in
with contributions from individuals and employers.
Eventually, most Americans could end up getting
their coverage through the exchange.
The Democratic health care legislation as originally
introduced in the House and Senate did not mention
abortion. That rang alarm bells for abortion
Since abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts
on both sides say not mentioning it would allow
health care plans in the new insurance exchange to
provide unrestricted coverage.
It would mirror the private insurance market, where
abortion coverage is widely available. A Guttmacher
Institute study found that 87 percent of typical
employer plans covered abortion in 2002, while a
Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2003 found that
46 percent of workers in employer plans had coverage
for abortions. The studies asked different
questions, which might help explain the disparity in
In the Senate, the plan passed by the health
committee is largely silent on the abortion issue.
Staff aides confirmed that the public plan — and
private insurance offered in the exchange — would be
allowed to cover abortion, without funding
restrictions. However, a bipartisan group of Finance
Committee senators is discussing the issue and may
take a different approach.
As the House and Senate bills stand now, the
decision to offer abortion coverage in the public
plan would be made by the health and human services
Abortion opponents are seeking a prohibition against
using any federal subsidies to pay for abortions or
for any part of any costs of a health plan that
offers abortion. Such a proposal was voted down by
the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the same
panel that approved Capps' amendment. It's not
likely to be the end of the story.
Aides to Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Joseph
Pitts, R-Pa., who sponsored the restrictive proposal
that lost in committee, said the pair will press for
a separate vote on abortion funding when the health
care bill comes before the full House this fall.
Abortion opponents say private plans in the
insurance exchange could be allowed to cover
abortion, but only if it's offered under a separate,
supplemental policy that individuals would have to
buy on their own.
"You can have a result where nobody has to pay for
other people's abortions," said Doerflinger.
Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for
Women's Policy Research, said applying the current
restrictions for federal employees and low-income
women to a program intended for the middle class
will provoke a backlash.
"There is a difference between picking off one group
of women here and one group there and something that
would affect a very large group," Hartmann said.
"Everyone would like to avoid that fight."
(This version CORRECTS that federal funds for
abortions are now restricted to cases involving
rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother
instead of danger to the health of the mother.))
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights