Abortion and Health Care
Congress has passed
a health reform bill, and the President has
signed it into law. The new law contains both
direct and indirect federal funding for elective
abortions, and would require every American with
certain health insurance policies to contribute
directly to the funding of elective abortions.
The President issued an executive order that
claimed to address these concerns, but the order
actually has no practical effect.
The Status Quo Before the Health Care Bill
was Passed -- No Federal Funding for
health care bill was passed, it had long
been established that federal funds would
not be used to pay
for elective abortions, nor did any federal
funds go to insurance plans that covered
elective abortions. Federal employee
benefit plans do not cover elective
abortions, and federal health insurance
programs for the poor (Medicaid) also do not
pay for elective abortions.
If individuals wished to have an elective
abortion, they either had to pay for it with
their own money or obtain a private
insurance plan that covers elective
The Health Care Law Changes this
Under the health
care law, elective
abortion would be considered "health care" –
despite the fact that it is the only medical
procedure designed to take a life.
The health care
law defines the services that must be
covered in health insurance plans by using
terminology such as "outpatient services",
"family planning", "physicians' services",
"preventive services", etc. Federal courts
have interpreted all of these terms to
The health care
law would allow private health
insurance plans that cover elective abortion
to receive government subsidies, with a
transparent book-keeping trick that claims
to segregate those funds from the money used
to pay for abortions. Despite this
trickery, the reality is that federal money
would go to insurance plans that cover elective
abortion, and would indirectly be paying for
The law would
impose a $1 per month fee on all those who
are enrolled in plans that cover elective
abortions. These funds would go
directly to pay for elective abortions.
In other words, federal law would, for the
first time, require people to pay directly
for elective abortions.
made to amend the health care law before it
was passed (e.g., the Stupak Amendment), but
these were rejected by Congress.
President signed an executive order that
claimed to exclude payments for abortions,
in fact such an order has no legal effect --
an executive order cannot amend a statute,
nor can it overrule court decisions
interpreting statutory language.
For a full
explanation of how the health care law would
cover abortions, see this
fact sheet and this
more detailed legal analysis by the
United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops' General Counsel.
The Hyde Amendment Does Not Provide Any
The Hyde Amendment limits federal Medicaid funding
for abortion to those cases where it is
necessary to preserve the life of the
mother, or if the pregnancy was the result
of rape or incest.
The Hyde Amendment
does not apply to the
programs set up under the health care law.
The Hyde Amendment is not a permanent
federal statute -- it is an amendment to the
budget that has to be passed every year, and
which can be removed at any time.
As a result, the health care
law must be specifically amended
to exclude abortion coverage and payments,
and to restore the status quo under which no
federal funds were used to pay for
Legislation is Required to Prevent Abortion
Funding and to Protect Conscience Rights
have taken advantage of a provision in the
health care law, and have passed so-called
“opt-out” bills. These bills would prohibit
insurance plans that cover abortion from
participating in that state’s insurance
exchange program. The New York State
Catholic Conference supports this
legislation and has obtained a commitment
from an Assembly member to sponsor it.
Two bills have
been introduced in Congress to correct the
abortion funding problem in the health care
law. One, the
"No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"
(H.R. 5939), would ensure that no federal
program -- either in the health care law or
otherwise -- would pay for abortions, and
also provides for conscience protection.
A second bill, H.R. 5111, would apply the
Hyde Amendment provisions to the new health
care law. We strongly support the
passage of either of these bills.
For decades, the Catholic Bishops of the United
States have been in favor of reforms to our
health care system that ensure several important
Respect for life from conception to natural
Access for all, with a priority for the
Preserving freedom of conscience.
Preserving the freedom of individuals and
families to make choices about health care.
Restraining costs and applying them
equitably to all participants.
Our bishops have made clear that the following
essential principles must be respected in any
health care reform bill:
Abortion cannot be paid for -- directly
or indirectly -- by federal
dollars or included as a mandatory feature
of health insurance.
Unborn children must be covered by any
health insurance plan.
The right to conscience of health care
professionals and institutions must be
should not be rationed due to age,
disability, expected length of life, cost
considerations or arbitrary judgments about
their "quality of life".
elderly, handicapped, and chronically ill
should not be pressured into euthanasia or
Assisted suicide cannot be paid for or
For more information,
please visit the U.S. Bishops' webpage on
Health Care Reform.
Edward T. Mechmann, Esq.,
Public Policy Coordinator