Pro-life and social conservative groups are in an uproar over what they say is the first federal funding of elective abortion under the new health care legislation.
The National Right to Life Committee accused the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of approving Pennsylvania's request for $160 million for a new "high-risk" insurance program that will use federal funds to subsidize coverage of nearly all abortions before the 24th week of pregnancy.
Although the Pennsylvania plan on abortion states that "elective abortions are not covered," NRLC points out that the detailed plan neglects to define "elective." The Pennsylvania plan also elsewhere states that coverage includes abortions and contraceptives that fulfill requirements of several specific statutes. One of the statutes says that abortion is legal in Pennsylvania if a physician believes it is "necessary" based on "all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman."
In the plan, there was only one circumstance under the Pennsylvania statute where an abortion was not allowed: if it is sought solely because of the sex of the unborn child.
"Under the Rendell-Sebelius plan, federal funds will subsidize coverage of abortion performed for any reason, except sex selection," said Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the NRLC, in a statement. "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."
Throughout the health care bill debate and even after it became law, pro-life groups have been convinced that the legislation has loopholes so that federal funds can be channeled to pay for elective abortions. Despite President Obama's and Democratic leaders' assurance that no federal tax dollars will pay for the procedure, pro-life groups believe the health care bill is the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.
President Obama's executive order to restrict federal funding of abortion under the new health care reform law did little to allay concerns. Pro-life groups dismissed the executive order saying it does not have the same force of law as those passed by Congress. Now with the Pennsylvania high-risk program federal funding, pro-life groups say they have proof they were right.
NRLC's Douglas Johnson said the federal tax funds for Pennsylvania's plan that "will pay for insurance plans that cover any legal abortion" is the "first proof of the phoniness" of President Obama's promise that federal funds will not subsidize abortion.
Johnson also said the administration is "quietly advancing" its abortion agenda through administrative decisions such as the Pennsylvania plan and hopes to avoid "broad public attention."
"I'm sad to see my own state of Pennsylvania cover abortion through the new high-risk insurance pool," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), according to Citizen Link. "This clearly illustrates the need for strong legislative language to prevent federal funding for abortion coverage."
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department, however, released a statement Thursday afternoon denying that it would use federal funds for the high-risk insurance program to pay for abortions. The department said the likelihood that someone in the program, which targets the "sickest of the sick," would need an abortion is "remote." However, if someone in the program did seek an abortion the person would have to pay for it themselves.
Likewise, the DHHS released a brief statement that said in Pennsylvania and other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan except in the cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.