Let’s Read the Bill, Shall We?

The Senate leadership has now introduced a health care reform bill that would pay for elective abortions, mandate abortion coverage in private health insurance plans, impose a monthly fee on all those in the public plan to pay for abortion, and provide subsidies to private insurance plans that cover elective abortions. The debate about abortion in health care reform has entered its next chapter.

So, let’s do something radical today. Let’s actually read the Stupak Amendment, which is part of the House health care bill (H.R. 3962) and see what it actually says. This is not as hard as it sounds, because the Amendment is less than 400 words long and can actually fit on one side of a piece of paper.

But it may be a bit scary for some legislators who seem to prefer not to read what is in the bills they vote on. It may also be scary for pro-abortion activists, who prefer to spread misinformation about what was in the original H.R. 3962, and what the Stupak Amendment actually does.

For example, a pro-abortion Representative recently wrote to a constituent, “In fact, the original language of H.R. 3962 already prevented any federal dollars from directly funding abortion services.”

That is just not accurate. H.R. 3962, as it was presented to the House for a vote, authorized federal subsidies to private insurance plans that covered elective abortion, and would have collected “premiums” from private parties which would then have been used for direct reimbursement for abortions. It also authorized the Secretary of HHS to pay for elective abortions under the proposed “public option.”

In the same email, the legislator wrote: “Unfortunately, the Stupak Amendment goes far beyond current law restricting federal funding of abortions and would in fact ban abortion coverage from any plan offered in the so-called exchange that serves any woman who receives subsidies.” This echoes the party line among the pro-abortion forces is that the Stupak Amendment would prevent women from obtaining private health insurance that covers elective abortions.

That is just not accurate. Let’s look at what the Stupak Amendment actually states. Admittedly, it is written in a bit of legalese, but it still can be understood fairly easily:

“Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any nonfederal entity (including an individual or a State or local government) from purchasing separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions” (Section 265(b)), provided that they do not use federal subsidies to do so.

The Amendment goes on to say:

“nothing in this section shall restrict any nonfederal QHBP offering entity [i.e., health insurance company] from offering separate supplemental coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions,” (Section 265(c)), provided that no federal funds are used to purchase abortion coverage, and the plan can participate in the Exchange if the company offers an otherwise identical plan that does not cover abortion.

As a result, the Stupak Amendment retains the legal status quo under which no federal funds are used to pay for elective abortions, and no federal funds go to insurance plans that cover elective abortions. If women wish to purchase private insurance to pay for an elective abortion, they may do so, but they must use their own money. It was actually the bill as presented to the House that would substantially change this status quo by paying for elective abortions, and giving federal funds to insurance plans that cover elective abortion. And the new Senate bill has the same fatal flaws.

The health care reform debate is very complicated, and involves many, many issues. But a couple of things should be clear — we should read the actual bills to see what they say, and in any event no bill should pay for abortions.

As things stand right now, it is also clear that the Senate bill must be amended to reflect the same terms as the Stupak Amendment, or it should be defeated.

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