Politics & Policy

Medicare for All Would Mandate Coverage for All Abortions

Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) introduces his “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
The Democrats’ proposal could even require doctors to perform abortion procedures, regardless of conscience.

Late last month, House Democrats unveiled the text of their Medicare for All proposal, which in addition to being grotesquely expensive and fiscally irresponsible, would mandate government coverage of abortions.

“Individuals enrolled for benefits under this Act are entitled to have payment made by the Secretary to an eligible provider for . . . comprehensive reproductive, maternity, and newborn care,” the bill, sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), states.

In plain language, the bill would guarantee “free” abortions for all women — or at least, as “free” as every other type of health care ostensibly would be under their implausible regime, which is to say abortion would be underwritten, along with everything else, by taxpayers.

The legislation also would explicitly wipe away any law on the books that attempts to prevent federal health-care spending from directly paying for abortion procedures: “Any other provision of law in effect on the date of enactment of this Act restricting the use of Federal funds for any reproductive health service shall not apply to monies in the Trust Fund.”

This would effectively nullify conscience protections such as the Hyde Amendment and other riders like it, which have been added — until very recently, on a bipartisan basis — to federal spending bills since the mid-1970s to protect taxpayers from being compelled to underwrite abortion procedures that are reimbursed by federal health-care programs.

Even as it is, the setup under the Hyde Amendment still allows the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, to receive half a billion dollars in federal funding each year; it merely prevents groups that perform abortions from being directly reimbursed for those procedures through Medicaid. This bill would torpedo even that tenuous compromise.

And that isn’t all. Politico reported in February that under the Medicare for All bill, states would “be barred from excluding abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, which some red states have sought to push out of Medicaid.” This would resurrect and formalize a rule that the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department put in place near the end of his presidency, forbidding states from defunding abortion providers.

Soon after President Trump took office, he signed a bill passed under the Congressional Review Act to reverse that policy, once again permitting states to remove Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from their health-care programs.

On top of these changes — the most radically pro-abortion policies ever proposed by the Democratic party — the Medicare for All legislation likely could be read to require hospitals and doctors to perform abortion procedures, at least if they already offer or are trained to provide reproductive health care of any kind.

“Items and services to eligible persons shall be furnished by the provider without discrimination,” the bill reads. Provisions such as this are traditionally interpreted to require physicians to perform procedures even if they are morally opposed to them.

Though the bill adds that “nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed as requiring the provision of a type or class of items or services that are outside the scope of the provider’s normal practice,” it is unclear whether “normal practice” here means procedures the physicians typically don’t perform, or merely services they aren’t trained or licensed to perform. Even in the best-case scenario, all OB-GYNs presumably would be conscripted into performing abortion procedures.

Already, the majority of Democratic 2020 contenders have voiced support for some form of a Medicare for All program, including Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Their decision to back a bill that mandates coverage of abortion for all women shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that most of these politicians have already co-sponsored legislation that would attempt to override all state restrictions on abortion, even after fetal viability.

And last month, every Democratic senator running for president voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would’ve required doctors to provide the same medical care to infants born alive after attempted abortion procedures that they would provide to any other infant of the same gestational age.

Requiring Americans to fund all abortions — and possibly requiring all health-care providers to perform abortions — is just the next step down their increasingly radical path that treats the choice to kill an unborn human being as a fundamental human right.

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