While the White House continues to claim that a ban on abortion funding was always understood to apply to the whole federal health care law, abortion leaders, who once hailed the health care bill as a “huge victory,” are still expressing shock at the Obama administration’s last-minute ban of elective abortion funding in federally-funded high risk insurance pools.
The thoughts of various abortion lobby leaders were collected in a Politico piece Friday detailing the pro-abortion confusion that followed a statement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which said that abortion would not be covered in the high risk pools established by the new federal health care legislation. The statement, prompted by a National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) investigation that revealed that Pennsylvania’s proposed plan was set to federally fund elective abortions, was confirmed in new regulations issued by the HHS Friday.
While Politico’s Sarah Kliff called the incident “a reminder [to abortion groups] of the health reform battle they lost,” the groups’ reaction to the health care bill’s passage, and their current outrage, suggest that the abortion lobby never believed the health care battle was lost in the first place. After the bill was signed in March, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, called the bill “a huge victory,” noting it “will significantly increase insurance coverage of reproductive health care, including family planning.” Richards also dismissed Obama’s Executive Order, which purported to extend Hyde-amendment restrictions to the health care bill, as a mere “symbolic gesture.”
And while the HHS statement itself suggested the ban was merely reiterating current law, both Factcheck.org and the Congressional Research Service concluded that no such abortion funding ban existed for the high-risk pools prior to the HHS statement.
For pro-aborts who had claimed victory in the battle over health care – a battle during which Planned Parenthood had boasted frequent and close contact with the White House – the HHS statement was a clear instance of backpedaling.
“This is not the outcome we expected,” Laurie Rubiner, Planned Parenthood vice president for public policy, told Politico. “We now know we need to be vigilant to make sure there aren’t other areas of the law where there is silence. There is a whole host of areas that we’re going to be watching like a hawk.”
Despite the patchwork approach to banning abortion funding, the White House continues to portray the outcome of the fiasco as simply maintaining the status quo – a line used in debate prior to the bill’s passage to justify the bill’s weak abortion-funding language.
Nancy-Ann DeParle, the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, claimed in a blog post Thursday that “in reality, no new ground has been broken.” “This policy meets the president’s commitment throughout the health reform debate to neither expand nor scale back current restrictions on federal funding for abortion and ensures that no federal funds will be used to cover abortion services other than the exceptions mentioned above,” wrote DeParle.
A White House official also told Politico that “the president is committed to neither expanding nor scaling back current restrictions on federal funding for abortion.”
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said that the Obama administration has been caught trying to have it both ways: courting the pro-abortion lobby, while attempting to appease widespread opposition to public funding of abortion.
“The Obama administration is trying to play both sides. It tried to sneak funding for abortion in one program. Then, when caught, they announced a ‘ban,’ but at the same time declared the ban as ‘temporary’ and ‘not a precedent’ for what it will do in other programs,” said Wright in a statement Friday. “This leads to one obvious conclusion: temporary fixes don’t work. Congress needs to pass a permanent ban on abortion funding.”
Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), two top pro-life leaders on Capitol Hill, introduced legislation Friday that aims to close the loopholes once and for all with a permanent Hyde-amendment ban on abortion funding that would pertain to all U.S. law.
“In announcing the temporary ban, the White House affirmed that the ‘President is committed to neither expanding nor scaling back current restrictions on federal funding for abortion.’ This new bill fits that promise, as it will uphold current laws, making permanent what has been for too long temporary,” said Wright.