Pro-life Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced condemnation for the findings of a recent report showing that federal subsidies are funding abortion coverage in the Affordable Care Act.
“All of this is completely unacceptable,” stated Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
“Now we see that provisions that were included in the law in regard to taxpayer funding of abortion and the promise of every American having the ability to purchase a plan on the exchange that didn’t cover abortion have not been implemented.”
The report was released Sept. 15 by the Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan government watchdog. It detailed how health plan issuers across the nation were failing to bill enrollees separately for abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, federal subsidies for health plans could be used to pay directly for abortions, in violation of an executive order forbidding such funding arrangements.
President Obama had promised in an executive order that no federal funding would go to abortions covered in the law’s health insurance exchanges. The action was meant to quell concerns of a dozen pro-life Democrats who supported the law but opposed any federal funding of abortion. Those congressmen were the last votes needed to pass the law through the House.
In addition, while the Affordable Care Act mandated that health plans not covering abortions be available, the GAO report found that insurance exchanges in five states offered only health plans covering abortions.
The report makes it “absolutely clear that taxpayer funds are being used to pay for abortions under the ACA,” Rep. Lipinski stated. He called the separate billing for abortions an “accounting gimmick” and said he opposed the law’s passage because he believed tax dollars would fund abortion.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who also co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, joined in the criticism of the president’s broken pledge in an interview with CNA.
“The President did not tell the truth on multiple occasions, including right here in Congress in September of 2009 when he promised us that abortion would not be in his plan, in ObamaCare,” Smith said.
“It couldn’t be clearer, it was a declarative sentence. And it turns out that it is massively funded by the taxpayer, public funding for abortion, and it’s on demand, right up until the moment of birth where that is permitted.”
Smith revealed that he and other congressmen wrote to the president early in August asking for transparency about abortion funding in the law, but received no response.
“We did a letter on August 4 asking a number of specific questions, because there’s been no transparency,” the congressman said. “The seriousness of this is that the new open season is starting, more people will be signing up, more people will get taxpayer-subsidized abortion coverage, and contrary to what the president said.”
Democrats for Life of America agreed that the failure to follow the law is concerning.
However, the group’s executive director, Kristen Day, told CNA that there were also positive findings.
“There are more plans that don’t cover abortions than do,” she said, adding that “twenty-two states passed laws that don’t condone funding of abortions in health care.”
Both Day and Lipinski criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the issue. Lipinski said that “it was almost impossible for an individual shopping on the exchanges to find out whether or not abortion – or almost anything else – was covered under each plan.”
Day said that “on both sides of the issue, the pro-choice and the pro-life side – there’s dissatisfaction with just being very clear with what’s covered on the plans.”
“There is still some work to do,” she said.
In response to earlier concerns over abortion funding in health care, legislation was crafted to specifically exclude a scenario such as that revealed by the GAO report. More than 150 members of Congress so far have sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would exclude insurance plans covering abortion procedures from receiving federal tax funds.
“As a nurse, a mother, and a longtime pro-life advocate these findings are heartbreaking to me – but they’re not surprising,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) stated at a Sept. 18 press conference on Capitol Hill.
In an address on the Senate floor, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that “many of my colleagues in the House who voted for this voted only because President Obama repeatedly promised that the health care law would not lead to American tax dollars being used for this purpose.”
“It’s a longstanding policy,” he added, “it’s a policy that Americans have strongly supported for a long time. Unfortunately, this new report by the government itself indicates that it was one more government promise not kept.”