New proposal attempts to thread abortion needle in health reform

by on November 5, 2009  •  In Congress, Health, Reproductive rights

Anti-abortion House Dems, whose number is large enough to defeat health reform, have balked at the compromise worked out earlier to avoid the use of federal funds for abortion and are insisting on additional conditions. From the NY Times:

Under the House bill, health plans are neither required nor forbidden to cover abortions. Under [Rep. Brad] Ellsworth’s proposal, if the public plan decides to cover abortion, it would have to hire private contractors to handle money that might be used for that purpose.

Supporters of abortion rights, like the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the proposed restrictions went too far. Laurie Rubiner, vice president of Planned Parenthood, said Mr. Ellsworth’s proposal would “tip the balance away from women’s access to reproductive health care. Abortion should not be treated any differently from any other medical benefit or procedure,” Ms. Rubiner said. “It is our hope and expectation that the secretary would decide to include coverage of abortion in the public option.” [The bill calls for the Secretary of HHS to decide the criteria for benefits.]

On the other hand, Liz Farrar, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ellsworth, said, “We think the public option will become the pro-life option.”

The bill stipulates that in every part of the country, there must be at least one insurance plan that provides coverage of abortions and at least one that does not.

Douglas D. Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said Mr. Ellsworth’s proposal was “a phony compromise. It serves no purpose except to assist Speaker Pelosi in peeling votes away from an amendment that would flatly prohibit the public plan from paying for elective abortions,” Mr. Johnson said. That amendment was offered by Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan. Mr. Johnson said Mr. Ellsworth’s proposal authorized “a money-laundering scheme under which the health secretary would hire an agent to pay abortion providers.”

The Congressional Research Service said recently that money received by the government insurance plan, including premiums, “may be classified as federal funds or government funds.” But in a memorandum analyzing the House bill, Prof. Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard took issue with that conclusion, which he described as “an exercise in sophistry.” Under the House bill, he said, abortion services could be financed “only by special private premiums that are segregated” from other money. Thus, he concluded, the House bill, “as it currently stands, does not authorize governmental funding of abortion.”


One Response to New proposal attempts to thread abortion needle in health reform

  1. Like a Vice November 5, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    I wonder why such a debate. Will the end user of the health reform ever notice whether the premiums went in the goverment fund or were handled by an agent ? I understand that pro-lifers do not want to pay for other people’s abortions, but the point of having public health insurance is to minimize cost by pooling a large number of exposure units. Practically speaking, I don’t think that there’s any gain in segragating the funds. Personal opinion.

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