Washington Update: Abortion Funding Not in Health-Care Bill

The health-care reform debate in Washington, D.C., has many components, but one that has drawn enormous attention from the pro-life community is a concern over whether health-care reform would provide funding for abortions.

Jim Wallis wrote a blog post two weeks ago about the issue, when it was still unclear what direction the Congress would take. Last night, a key committee in the House of Representatives voted on how the issue would be addressed in their version of the bill.

Here is what they decided, as reported in a NY Times article (emphasis added):

On Thursday night, the Energy and Commerce Committee also voted to allow health plans to cover or not cover abortion, as they see fit, but stipulated that insurers must use money from private sources to pay for any abortions...

The amendment said abortion could not be included in the “essential benefits package” to be defined by the government. Further, it said insurers would not be required or forbidden to cover abortion. But, it says, in every part of the country, the government must ensure that there is at least one plan that covers abortion and at least one that does not.

Under the bill, health plans would receive federal subsidies to help pay premiums for low-income people. But under the amendment, subsidies could not be used to pay for abortions.

The amendment is an attempt to resolve the issue of whether health-care subsidies included in the reform bill would be subject to the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing rule prohibiting public funding for abortion services. Although much of what is in the bill is new territory, the amendment effectively maintains the status quo on denying any government funding for abortion.

None of the Senate committees working on health-care reform have passed similar amendments on abortion funding at this time. We’ll post updates on God’s Politics as the issue is addressed both by the full House of Representatives and the Senate.

- Sojourners Policy Team

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners’ Health-Care Resources Web page.

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