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As Congress struggled to pass health reforms earlier this year, anti-abortion groups and members of Congress fretted the legislation would permit taxpayer dollars to be used for the controversial procedure, overturning years of precedent that banned use of federal money for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life. To ease those fears, President Obama signed an executive order that reaffirmed the bans would continue in health insurance programs developed under the new bill.
Obama’s gesture was needed to win support from key anti-abortion Democrats, including Bart Stupak of Michigan, Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati. But Republicans still weren’t convinced. "Make no mistake, a ‘yes' vote on the Democrats' health care bill is a vote for taxpayer-funded abortions," House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio said at the time.
As states prepare to implement a part of the law that encourages them to create temporary high risk plans for people with pre-existing medical conditions who have trouble finding affordable insurance, Republicans like Boehner and anti-abortion groups like the National Right to Life Committee are claiming the new high risk insurance pools will provide a backdoor way for the federal government to fund abortions. Pennsylvania was among the first states to put together a plan, and publicize its details.
"The Department of Health & Human Services is providing $160 million to the state of Pennsylvania to set up a new high-risk insurance pool program that would cover any abortion legal in the state," Boehner said in a news release July 13.
"This is the boldest admission yet from the Obama administration that the President’s Executive Order on taxpayer-funded abortion was a sham," Boehner said. "The fact that the high-risk pool insurance program in Pennsylvania will use federal taxpayer dollars to fund abortions is unconscionable."
Ohio’s eight GOP members of Congress have kept up the chorus.
On July 15, Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana claimed the Pennsylvania high-risk insurance program would include abortion coverage and demonstrate that Kaptur, Driehaus and Obama violated their promise that "ObamaCare would not allow tax dollars to be used to take the life of unborn children."
"The Stupak-Kaptur-Driehaus executive order, signed by President Obama was not worth the paper it was printed on," Jordan’s statement said. "It was merely a ploy to give so-called pro-life Democrats an excuse to vote for a federal takeover of health care that allows taxpayer funding of abortion.."
Then on July 19 the group of eight – Boehner, Jordan, Steve LaTourette of Bainbridge Township, Patrick Tiberi of Genoa Township, Jean Schmidt of Loveland, Michael Turner of Centerville, Bob Latta of Bowling Green and Steve Austria of Beavercreek – wrote to Gov. Ted Strickland expressing concern that other states’ high risk health plans will cover elective abortions, and urging Strickland to make sure that doesn’t happen in Ohio.
"Your voice as Governor is needed to help ensure that not a dime of the $152 million in federal funds Ohio is set to receive for its high-risk pool plan goes toward covering abortions," their letter said. At Strickland’s request, Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson replied with a letter that insisted the high risk pool the state plans to launch on Aug. 1 will comply with federal law, and not cover abortion services "except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered."
Will these new plans actually permit individuals with pre-existing medical conditions to get federally funded abortions?
Boehner’s statement is nearly identical to one made by the National Right to Life Committee that we analyzed. They said that the Obama administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to pay for health insurance plans that cover "any legal abortion."
Here’s what we found when we analyzed that statement July 16.
Pennsylvania’s 60-page proposal outlines a standard health care plan that says this about abortion: "Includes only abortions and contraceptives that satisfy the requirements of 18 Pa.C.S. § 3204-3206 and 35 P.S. §§10101, 10103-10105. ... Elective abortions are not covered."
Those statute numbers refer to Pennsylvania's abortion laws, where abortion is, for the most part, legal. The code says that abortions may be performed if a doctor determines that "in his best clinical judgment, the abortion is necessary." The only mention the statute makes of forbidding an abortion is when it is "sought solely because of the sex of the unborn child."
Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director, said those statute numbers mean that the proposal is meant to include any legal abortion.
"We know how this stuff works," Johnson said. "He'll say 'It's not elective, it's necessary.'"
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responded in a statement issued July 14: "In Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered."
Pennsylvania’s insurance department, issued its own statement July 15: "Pennsylvania will – and has always intended to – comply with the federal ban on abortion funding in the coverage provided through our federally funded high risk pool. This program will provide much-needed assistance for the sickest of the sick. The likelihood that any of those covered will seek abortion services is remote, but if they do need such services, they will have to pay for them out their own pocket."
The Department of Health and Human Services is still developing regulations for many aspects of health care, and they're trying to do it with some haste. New Mexico, for example, submitted a plan for the Pre-existing Condition Health Insurance Plan that explicitly included abortion services, but then withdrew it quickly when it learned that the federal government would forbid the services, Associated Press reported.
The Obama administration has clearly stated it won’t allow abortion to be covered under the new plans, save for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. State officials in Pennsylvania and Ohio have insisted their new programs will comply with the federal ban. The high-risk plans in question are designed to cover older people with chronic health conditions rather than the healthy young women most likely to seek elective abortions.
We find Boehner’s statement to be False.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, news release, July 13, 2010
House Minority Leader John Boehner, news release, July 19, 2010
House Minority Leader John Boehner, news release, July 19, 2010
Rep. Jim Jordan, news release, July 19, 2010
PolitiFact.com, Abortions in Pennsylvania paid for with federal dollars? Not so, July 16, 2010
Department of Health and Human Services, public statement, July 14, 2010
Pennsylvania Insurance Department, public statement, July 15, 2010
Mary Jo Hudson, Ohio Department of Insurance Director, letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner, July 20. 2010
The White House, public statement and text of executive order, March 21, 2010
PolitiFact.com, Stupak revises abortion stance on health care bill, citing Obama's executive order,
March 23, 2010
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