Gov't Funded Abortion Still 'Unclear' in Health Reform, Experts Say

While pro-life and pro-choice supporters continue to argue about the health care reform bill in their favor, independent analysts say the current proposed legislation leaves it "unclear" whether tax payers will pay for abortion services.

"Frankly we just don't know yet," said ABC News's Kate Snow, who ran a fact check on whether abortion will be paid using public money, on "World News with Charles Gibson."

Under current law, federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger. The proposed House bill "does not override the Hyde Amendment" which prevents the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion services outside of the exceptions listed above, a Denver Post fact check stated.

But to complicate matters, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reached a compromise in July that allows insurance plans – private or government – to offer an option to cover abortions if the premium difference is paid for by private funds, not federal dollars.

"None of [the bills] say abortions should or could be paid for with tax dollars," said Timothy Johnson, chief medical editor of ABC News.

However, he added, "if you look at the language, it gets complicated. It's not crystal clear whether or not that could happen with a so-called 'public option,' and even with private plans that might be subsidized by the government, maybe abortion would be allowed."

Steven Waldman, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Beliefnet, came to a similar conclusion about abortion and the Health Care Reform bill in his column published in the Wall Street Journal this past week.

In his column, he cited the bill passed by the House Committee as stating, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage" for abortion in the "public option."

He then highlighted that pro-choicers believe the "neither-this-nor-that language" is neutral, while pro-lifers read the bill as meaning "since abortion 'could' be covered, it will be covered."

"My personal view: the legislation passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee does not mandate abortion coverage, as pro-life groups claim, but does leave open the possibility that the government might pay for abortion," wrote Waldman.

But many conservative groups are adamantly proclaiming that abortion will be covered in the health care overhaul.

Family Research Council, a leading conservative public policy group, in its newsletter Thursday listed its seventh "proof" that abortion will be considered a benefit in the health overhaul.

It cited the response of House Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a town hall meeting in San Jose as evidence that abortion will be covered in health care.

"[This is a] basic benefit plan developed by, um, health professionals... Abortion will be covered as a benefit by one or more of the health care plans available to Americans, and I think it should be," she said in response to a question.

But it seems Democrats, who are backing the bill, are contradicting themselves when it comes to the health care overhaul including abortion.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) stated in her own town hall meeting: "There's nothing in the bill that talks about Planned Parenthood. There is not one dime for any abortions. There is nothing in the bill that mandates any kind of abortion coverage," she said one day after Lofgren said the opposite.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) agreed with McCaskill. He said Americans who do not want to pay for abortion can have that health care plan, but those who want a plan including abortion can have that option if they pay for it.

"You have the choice of being in one plan or the other," Specter explained at a town hall meeting last Tuesday.

Ashley Horne, federal issues analyst for Focus on the Family Action, commented on the proposed health reform bill saying, "They (President Obama and the Democratic Congress) have shot down every single attempt in both the House and the Senate to keep abortion funding out of the health-care proposal."

"The reality is, if this proposal passes, there will be unlimited funding of abortions," she contends.

In a recent interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, President Obama said that while he is pro-choice, the tradition of the country is that the government does not finance abortion as part of health care.

"So the bottom line is we don't know yet if tax payers would end up funding abortions," concluded ABC News's Kate Snow.

Members of Congress are currently hosting town hall meetings across the nation in their districts and state to answer citizens' questions and hear the public's opinion on the health care reform. The U.S. Congress is currently in its month-long summer break.

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