Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Stupak, not Capps, maintains status quo on abortion funding

The Senate is debating the Nelson-Hatch amendment, which mirrors the House's Stupak-Pitts amendment and which would prevent federal funding of elective abortions through the health care reform legislation.

Pro-abortion senators are continuing to claim that the bill as written (which includes the Capps amendment pertaining to abortion), without the Nelson language, would maintain the status quo on abortion and health care, and be consistent with the longstanding Hyde amendment, while the Nelson/Stupak language would dramatically alter it.

But as Mary Harned explains:

The fact that the Stupak-Pitts amendment, not the Capps amendment, maintains existing law can be established from studying the Hyde Amendment and similar laws that apply to other programs. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds that are appropriated through the LHHS appropriations bill from being used to pay for abortion and prevents federal funds from being used to subsidize health care plans that offer abortion coverage.

In other words, programs like Medicaid cannot directly pay for abortions or subsidize private plans that include abortion coverage. The Stupak Amendment applies exactly the same principles to the new programs created by H.R. 3962. Just as Medicaid dollars cannot be used to subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortions, neither can the new affordability credits created by health care reform.

Other government programs apply these principles to federal funds as well. The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program has a longstanding restriction on abortion funding and coverage. The current law provides: "No funds appropriated by this Act shall be available to pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions."