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Rationing, Abortion Funding Are Back: Debunking "Pro-Life" Criticism of the Health Care Bill.


I would be very surprised to hear that the Sanders amendment rescinds that segregation of funds at PP centers, but even if it does, "no federal funding for abortion" is a misused and discriminatory term. The Hyde amendment, passed after the legalization of abortion under Roe v. Wade in 1973, only restricts use of Medicaid funds for abortion - not all federal funds. Even as misunderstood and misrepresented by "pro-life" groups, Hyde is basically a discriminatory law that preys on the poorest, most disadvantaged women in our society. If you can pay for an abortion yourself, the bill allows, go ahead. If you can't, you're forced into pregnancy.

First, the amendment provides inadequate conscience protection, because it does not prohibit any government entity or program (federal, state, or local) from discriminating against health care providers that do not want to participate in abortions.

While the current health care bill doesn't include provider refusal laws (so-called "conscience clauses"), other laws at the state and federal level already protect not only doctors and other providers but also  institutions (like the 624 Catholic hospitals in the country) from providing abortion (or as with Coats, from teaching abortion at medical schools!) In other words, a web of "conscience" laws allows every denominational health care institution, every provider, doctor, or nurse, from denying you a legal, medically-sound service. And this can be done without informed consent (telling the patient what services are available and allowing the patient to make their decisions according to their own conscience) and without meaningful referrals (telling a patient where to get the services they need). The AUL wants to keep the disastrous and discriminatory Bush "conscience clause" in place, the one the Bush administration enacted only weeks before leaving office, that allows virtually anyone in the medical research (lab workers) or delivery network (pharmacists) to deny patients' their right of informed health care decisions and access - without any provision for the patient at all.

Second, the amendment fails to address our concerns that under the Mikulski amendment (already accepted in the underlying bill), the Health Resources and services Administration (HRSA) has the power to require private insurance plans to include abortion coverage under the guise of “preventive care.”

Private health insurance policies already provide abortion services. About 85% of them. Preventing those policies from such coverage when included in the federally subsidized "networks" is a further extension of Hyde's original intent and again applies denominational health care discrimination to a pluralistic society. Restricting such coverage would further restrict access to legal, medically-sound service simply because a segment of society doesn't  believe in that service. Poor, minority, or rural-living women would be most hurt by it.

Third, the amendment allows insurance plans that cover abortions to receive government subsidies, which is a radical departure from existing law (which is not allowed under the Hyde Amendment and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program).

It's not radical, as I explained above. And the Weldon amendment, which  in 2005 eliminated coverage of abortion in the health care plans for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments of the U.S. government was itself a radical departure from the Establishment clause that should protect society from government endorsement of religious ideology. To be clear, Hyde and Weldon are both amendments that are renewed each year with the budget for their programs; but "pro-life" groups have made such a fuss about them that, as their language alters annually, they have become more restrictive and the question of their removal has become politically challenging. That doesn't mean that they represent good, non-discriminatory medicine. Again, claims that these laws currently prevent any "federal funding for abortion" are grossly exaggerated. There's no "radical departure" here as AUL claims.