In the first known instance of direct federal funding of abortion under the new health care legislation, the Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new “high-risk” insurance program – and has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of Governor Edward Rendell (D) under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.
The high-risk pool program, which will be funded entirely by the federal government, is one of the new programs created by the sweeping health care legislation President Obama signed into law on March 23. The law authorizes $5 billion in federal funds for the program, which will cover as many as 400,000 people when it is implemented nationwide.
Although an earlier version of the health care legislation prevented federal funds from subsidizing abortion, that protection was not included in the bill signed into law. Although the president’s Executive Order regarding funding for abortion was touted as the solution, the White House later admitted the Order simply “reiterated” what was already in the bill. Nonetheless, the mainstream media continues to portray the Executive Order as having effectively blocked federal funds for abortion.
“This is just the first proof of the phoniness of President Obama’s assurances that federal funds would not subsidize abortion – but it will not be the last,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has emphasized that the high-risk pool program is a federal program, and that the states will not incur any cost. On May 11, 2010, in a letter to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on implementation of the new law, DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that “states may choose whether and how they participate in the program, which is funded entirely by the federal government.”
Details of the high-risk pool plans for most states are not yet available. But on June 28, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario issued a press release announcing that the federal Department of Health and Human Services had approved his agency’s proposal for implementing the new program in Pennsylvania. According to the release, “The plan’s benefit package will include preventive care, physician services, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, mental health services, prescription medications and much more, with subsidized premiums of $283 a month.”
Examination of the detailed Pennsylvania plan (posted here), reveals that the “much more” will include insurance coverage of any legal abortion.
The section on abortion (see page 14) asserts that “elective abortions are not covered.” However, that statement proves to be a red herring, because the operative language does not define “elective.” Rather, the proposal specifies that the coverage “includes only abortions and contraceptives that satisfy the requirements of” several specific statutes, the most pertinent of which is 18 Pa. C.S. § 3204, which says that an abortion is legal in Pennsylvania (consistent with Roe v. Wade) if a single physician believes that it is “necessary” based on “all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age) relevant to the well-being of the woman.”
Indeed, the cited statute provides only a single circumstance in which an abortion prior to 24 weeks is not permitted under the Pennsylvania statute: “No abortion which is sought solely because of the sex of the unborn child shall be deemed a necessary abortion.”
As a result, “Under the Rendell-Sebelius plan, federal funds will subsidize coverage of abortion performed for any reason, except sex selection,” said NRLC’s Johnson. “The Pennsylvania proposal conspicuously lacks language that would prevent funding of abortions performed as a method of birth control or for any other reason, except sex selection – and the Obama Administration has now approved this.”
Responding to NRLC’s discovery, Tom McClusky, Family Research Council Action’s Senior Vice President, said: “Never have we so regretted being right on an issue, but this $160 million for an abortion insurance program in Pennsylvania validates the arguments FRC Action made throughout the health care debate: Taxpayer dollars will fund abortions. For our efforts to remove the bill’s abortion funding, we were called ‘deceivers’ by President Obama and ‘liars’ by his allies.
“Now we know who the true deceivers and liars really are.”