Anti-Abortion Groups Slam Administration Over Federal Funding For Abortions In Pennsylvania Health Plan

Anti-abortion groups are claiming that millions of federal dollars are about to go into a Pennsylvania health care plan that would cover abortion, contrary to lawmakers’ pledge to erect a virtual wall between such coverage and taxpayer funds. 

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department announced at the end of June that the federal government had approved $160 million to set up a high-risk insurance plan for thousands of Pennsylvania residents with pre-existing conditions. Though the announcement made no reference to abortion and the policy itself says “elective abortions” are not covered, the National Right to Life Committee claimed it would cover abortions in almost every circumstance. 

“What their plan actually does is say if it’s legal, it’s covered,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “Abortion ends up being covered if it’s not explicitly excluded.”

McAuley’s World Comments:

For a history of Roe vs. Wade and a detailed explanation of why elective abortions will be funded in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States see:   Update: Roe vs. Wade – How Obama Care Will Effect Taxpayer Funding Of Abortions

Excerpts from that post:

Having decided in 1973 to establish a constitutional right to abortion to serve women’s “health,” the courts decided that legislative references to health services or “medically necessary” services (the term of art used in the Medicaid statute) encompass abortion.

In the abortion context, the Supreme Court has said that “health” must be defined very broadly to include “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.” Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 192 (1973). In short, if a physician decides that a woman should be able to have an abortion for her “well being,” a government program requiring provision of health services must provide payment for such abortions.

 In the years before the Hyde amendment was first enacted by Congress in 1976, Medicaid was required to pay for about 300,000 abortions a year. No regulatory or administrative leeway was allowed on this point. The Medicaid statute said that grantees must provide “medically necessary” services provided by physicians, and the federal courts held that this category included elective abortions, even though the statute never says the word “abortion.” As one court has observed: “Because abortion fits within many of the mandatory care categories, including‘family planning,’ ‘outpatient services,’ ‘inpatient services,’ and ‘physicians’ services,’Medicaid covered medically necessary abortions between 1973 and 1976.” PlannedParenthood Affiliates of Michigan v. Engler, 73 F.3d 634, 636 (6th Cir. 1996).

Even after the Hyde amendment to the Labor/HHS appropriations act was enacted in 1976, barring funds appropriated in this act from being used for most abortions, a legal battle ensued for years. Not until 1980 did the U.S. Supreme Court rule that the statutory language of the Hyde amendment trumps the underlying statute’s presumptive mandate for abortion, and is constitutionally valid. Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980).

The Senate bill’s new funds are not appropriated in the Labor/HHS appropriations act, so Hyde does not apply to them.

 A similar situation came to light in 1979, when members of Congress asked why the Indian Health Service (IHS) was continuing to provide abortions despite enactment of the Hyde amendment. The agency replied that it had no choice but to do so: The authorizing legislation for the IHS created a broad mandate for services to conserve the “health” of Indians, and the Interior appropriations bill funding these services contained no abortion limitation like the Hyde amendment to the Labor/HHS bill. Therefore “we would have no basis for refusing to pay for abortions” (Letter from Director of the Indian Health Service to Cong. Henry Hyde, July 30, 1979).

Not until 1988 did Congress finally revise the authorizing legislation for the IHS to require that program to conform to the annual Hyde amendment.

The problem here is exactly parallel. The new billions of dollars appropriated here for services at CHCs simply are not covered by the Hyde amendment

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