Critical Condition

‘Hyding’ Taxpayer Funding of Abortion in House Health Bill

The House health bill, H.R. 3962, which may receive a vote as early as Saturday, fails to include language that would adequately prevent federal funding and coverage of abortion. Instead, the bill adopts the amendment authored by Rep. Lois Capps (D., Calif.) that was added to the former House bill during the Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up. The Capps language permits federal funding of abortion through the public option and allows federal subsidies to go to private plans that include abortion coverage.

What’s more, the new Ellsworth Amendment, which is likely to be slipped into H.R. 3962 in the eleventh hour, does nothing to alter the fact that the public option and many federally subsidized private plans will include abortion coverage under the bill. The Ellsworth Amendment allows the public option to pay for abortion on demand and allows government dollars to go to private plans that cover abortion. This amendment would undermine the only pro-life amendment that truly protects life in health-care reform: the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

In response to the backlash against her amendment, Capps sent a letter to House Speaker Pelosi, arguing that it “was carefully written to preserve the status quo regarding the ban on federal funding for abortion services.” In reality, the Capps language, and the similar language in the Senate Finance Committee Bill, is a radical departure from current policy.

To hear Capps tell it:

The Capps compromise applies the current Hyde amendment to health care reform. It prohibits federal funding for abortion beyond the cases of rape, incest or life of the woman. If a health plan chooses to offer abortion coverage beyond these exceptions, it cannot use federal funds to do so.

That is simply not true. Nothing like the Hyde Amendment is part of the Capps Amendment.

While the Hyde Amendment prevents any federal funds from paying for elective abortions through Medicaid, the Capps Amendment explicitly allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services — currently the staunch abortion advocate Kathleen Sebelius — to require funding for elective abortions in the public option. What’s more, the Capps Amendment permits government subsidies to go to private health-care plans that cover elective abortion. While participating health-care plans are supposed to “provide assurances” that no federal funds are used to pay for abortions directly, that does not change the fact that federal dollars are going to plans that cover elective abortions.

Capps’s letter to Pelosi continues:

[N]o money from the Treasury will be directed to abortion services . . . [because] money is transmitted to a private contractor who then reimburses physicians . . .

It’s hard to believe that she actually put that rationale is writing. As much as the congresswoman might wish to believe it so, the fact that the U.S. Treasury will transmit funds to private contractors, who then pay physicians (i.e. abortionists), does not magically transform the money from federal money to private money. In any case, again, a private plan’s “assurances” that they are not using federal subsidies to pay for abortions is not enough. No private plans that cover abortions should receive federal subsidies.

Contrast Capps’s plan for funneling taxpayer money to a private contractor with current law. Under existing federal law, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program cannot include any plans that cover elective abortion. In other words, no federal subsidies go to health-care plans that include abortion coverage.

But Capps’s purported “status quo” is far different from reality, as she demonstrates with her misleading claim that “in 17 states, Medicaid provides coverage for abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions [for rape and incest].”

The truth is that under the current version of the Hyde Amendment to Medicaid, states may not use federal funds or their matching funds to pay for abortions. If states want to pay for elective abortions, they must use their own revenues that are completely separate from the Medicaid program. In other words, states must appropriate additional funds, not Medicaid-matching funds, to pay for abortions. In the same way, any states that wish to pay for elective abortions for women who qualify for subsidized health care under the health-reform bills may choose to set up their own programs — nothing is stopping them.

The bottom line is this: In order for health-care reform to remain consistent with the status quo, no federal dollars can go to insurance plans that cover abortion.

Capps highlights that her amendment requires “that in each region, there must be at least one health plan available that does not cover abortion services.” But what she fails to mention is that there is also a requirement that every region include at least one health plan that does cover elective abortion.

Today, elective abortion is neither covered by federal government insurance nor funded under federal law. Make no mistake — the Capps Amendment aims to circumvent all the protections the Hyde Amendment and other federal laws gave to taxpayers unwilling to fund the destruction of human life. It will put the federal government squarely in the abortion business.

The biggest disinformation being perpetuated by the abortion lobby is that the Hyde Amendment is already in health-care reform. It is not. That is why pro-life America is fighting vigorously for an amendment that adds an express exclusion of abortion funding and coverage in health-care reform, like that of the Hyde Amendment for Medicaid, to prevent profiteering by the abortion industry off of American taxpayers.


– Dr. Charmaine Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL). AUL is the oldest national pro-life public-policy organization in the country and has been involved in every life-related case before the Supreme Court beginning with Roe v. Wade. AUL Action, AUL’s legislative arm, has a health-care-reform website located at REAL Health Care Respects