By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) infuriated pro-abortion groups when it took steps last week to implement a ban on funding abortions in state high-risk insurance pools under the new health care law after a national pro-life group exposed a loophole in the law.
According to LifeSiteNews, the changes were made after news broke last week that the state of Pennsylvania proposed a scheme that would allow the federally funded high-risk insurance plan in their state to cover abortions.
Shortly thereafter, the state of New Mexico also announced that it would include “elective termination of pregnancy” in their federally-subsidized pool.
The plans were exposed by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and drew an onslaught of media attention.
As a result, the HHS was forced to issue a clarification of the law. “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,” read a statement issued Thursday.
However, NRLC’s legislative director Douglas Johnson told LifeSiteNews that it was only because of the media attention that the Department decided to act.
“It is certainly clear that they were not imposing any abortion restrictions until now, until it became a matter of controversy,” he said. “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.”
Not surprisingly, pro-abortion groups are fuming over the HHS clarifications.
“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.”
Abortion advocates vigorously fought all restrictions on abortion coverage thoughout the long and contentious battle over health care reform. The law was passed only after President Obama appeased pro-life legislators by issuing an Executive Order that prevented any federal money from subsidizing abortions. However, most pro-abortion leaders, such as Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards, believed the Order was little more than a “symbolic gesture.”
On the other hand, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed cautious satisfaction with the clarifications.
“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 is in favor of passing the Protect Life Act (H.R. 5111), introduced in May by Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pitts and co-sponsored by 57 legislators, which would apply existing Hyde-amendment restrictions to the federal health care law.
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