Taxpayer funding for abortion is not, nor has it ever been, a popular policy. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll confirmed this, with 58 percent opposing it and only 37 percent supporting (women actually clocked in with higher opposition than men, with 60 percent opposing). This lack of popularity led long ago to a federal guarantee, known as the Hyde Amendment, that federal taxes will not pay for abortions.
Obamacare has likewise been unpopular. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows that for nearly two years, a majority of Americans have had an unfavorable opinion of this health-care legislation. Currently its popularity deficit is 12 points (47 to 35 percent). It’s little wonder, too, given that the president’s signature legislation has been fraught with problems, missteps, and outcomes directly contrary to what he promised the American people. To understand this ongoing lack of public support, one need only consider the ways in which the HHS sterilization, contraception, and abortifacient mandate has trampled on conscience and First Amendment rights; or recall the law’s disastrous public rollout, or the false promise that “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.”
In fact, it was only the assurance that the law would not result in federal abortion funding, together with an executive order that promised to ensure that such funding would not occur, that convinced a group of pro-life Democrats to support the law; their crucial swing votes allowed it to pass by a hair’s breadth.
It is against this backdrop that we consider a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan congressional research group. The GAO recently examined abortion coverage in the health-insurance exchanges set up pursuant to Obamacare. Tasked with finding which insurance plans fund abortions, they came to some notable conclusions.
Twenty-eight states have a legal environment that allows insurance plans within these exchanges to cover abortion. Among these 28 states, they found that 1,036 plans include abortion coverage, including every plan in New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Hawaii. More than 95 percent of the plans in Massachusetts, New York, and California also cover abortion.
This report is likely to contain surprising news for the residents of these states. The GAO report makes clear that those who want to find a plan that does not cover abortion will have a very difficult time. In some cases, the information is available in the Summary of Benefits. In other cases, it is only available on the insurer’s website. In other cases, the information is available only by calling the insurer.
For those who have already purchased insurance, their premiums may be going to abortion without their knowledge. This was not exactly the professed vision of Obamacare’s authors. Senator Ben Nelson, the author of an arrangement that segregates abortion coverage, put it this way in a speech on the Senate floor in 2009:
The insurance company must bill you separately, and you must pay separately from your own personal funds — perhaps a credit card transaction, your separate personal check, or automatic withdrawal from your bank account — for that abortion coverage. Now, let me say that again. You have to write two checks: one for the basic policy and one for the additional coverage for abortion.
This is necessary in light of federal bans on tax dollars going to abortion and the structure of Obamacare itself. Yet the GAO found that, of the 18 insurers it investigated, none of them charged separately for abortion coverage, and none of them even itemized the coverage on their bills.
So a user seeking to purchase insurance that does not include abortion coverage will find it impossible in some states, and in others the plan might exist, but it is nearly impossible to tell which one it is.
Many Americans, then, are being forced into purchasing abortion insurance through either lack of options or lack of information. Beyond this, however, every American taxpayer is being pulled into the subsidization of abortion, as tax credits are certainly being used to purchase insurance with abortion coverage. Many assert that this violates the spirit of the Hyde Amendment; others claim it violates the letter.
Whether this is the intended result of the abortion industry and its political beneficiaries is an open question. Some abortion supporters have voiced concern that they are unable to find the plans that cover it, and they seek greater transparency for that reason. Whatever the reason, the reality is that, through Obamacare, abortion is being funded by taxes. This is untenable.
There is something we can do. Two important pieces of legislation would fix these problems. The first is H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would clearly and permanently prohibit all taxpayer dollars from being used to cover abortion, including the indirect funding that occurs through subsidies to insurance purchasers. The Senate should take up and pass this House-passed legislation immediately. The second is H.R. 3279, the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would require every insurance plan established by Obamacare to clearly indicate whether or not it covers abortion.
Beyond this, efforts at the state level seek to exclude abortion coverage from plans offered in the exchanges. These are proving to be necessary protections for those who do not want to subsidize abortion. Thanks to the GAO report, the scope of the problem is now clear. Thanks to the efforts of pro-life politicians and advocacy groups at the state and federal level, so is the solution.
These patches to the legislation are a necessary start, but as a country, perhaps it is time for us also to consider what future there can be for a law whose signature achievement has been the magnitude of its broken promises.
— Carl Anderson is supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.