With the failure of Congress to include adequate statutory restrictions on using federal tax dollars to pay for abortion coverage, pro-life advocates use a different word to describe the new law – disappointing.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a legal analysis of the bill and the president’s corresponding executive order regarding abortion funding and conscience protection. The analysis concludes that the health care reform package violates both principles of the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy that says no appropriated federal funds can be used for elective abortions directly and no funds can pay for health insurance coverage of elective abortions.
The concern about direct federal abortion funding lies in the Community Health Center section of the bill. CHCs provide primary health services, including “family planning services.” A separate appropriation of billions of dollars will be made to CHCs without Hyde Amendment restrictions. Nothing in the existing law or new law stops these centers from providing abortions using federal tax dollars.
The concern about insurance coverage of abortion is in a different part of the bill. Some people will get federal financial assistance to purchase certain health plans. Section 1303 of the Act attempts to segregate funds within these health plans in order to keep federal dollars distinct from private funds used directly for abortion. However, the financial assistance will still pay overall premiums for health plans covering elective abortions. And any family having to buy such a subsidized plan—for example, because its coverage or provider network best meets the family’s needs—will be forced to provide a separate payment, on a regular basis, solely to pay for other enrollees’ abortions. The Act specifies that a plan including elective abortions “shall” obtain this fee from every enrollee, allowing no accommodation for conscientious objection.
The president’s executive order, despite its stated intent, does not correct these problems. The fact that an executive order was even considered in an attempt to clarify or limit the legislation points to its deficiencies. The Bishops believe that new legislation to address the abortion funding problems will almost certainly be required.
Tax dollars paying for abortion is an important question for our country; but is it really the main question? Are tax dollars paying for abortion more offensive than private dollars? Shouldn’t we really be asking why anyone should have to pay for another’s abortion? Why is this procedure still legal?
Sixty-seven percent of Americans polled last September opposed requiring people to pay for abortion coverage through their taxes. Clearly, people disagree with paying for someone else’s abortion. Even more encouraging, for the first time since 1995, a Gallup poll last May indicated more than half of Americans consider themselves to be pro-life and young people (age 18-29) are more pro-life than their grandparents. The minds and hearts of Americans are being converted to the truth about abortion. We are making strides.
Historic. Landmark. Unprecedented. Let’s pray that one day we will use those words to describe pro-life laws across the country that put an end to abortion, and protect and respect the rights of the unborn, once and for all.
PCC Column April 2010 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.