Obama Administration Clarifies Rules on Abortion Funding in Health Care Legislation

By MichaelJames

Jul 14, 2010 8:14pm

Facing questions from anti-abortion groups about whether a newly approved Pennsylvania health care plan would allow the use of federal funds for abortions, the Obama administration reiterated today that funding for President Obama’s health care legislation would only pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

The issue was raised by Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), who noted that at the end of June the Obama administration had approved $160 million for Pennsylvania to set up a “high risk” pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions who had been uninsured for the previous six months.

The language in the Pennsylvania solicitation for that plan, however, seemed to suggest abortions could be covered.

While the solicitation said that “elective abortions are not covered,” it also stated the plan would include “only abortions and contraceptives that satisfy the requirements” of a number of Pennsylvania statutes — including one stating that abortions can be provided by physicians who determine in “his best clinical judgment, the abortion is necessary … in the light of all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman. No abortion which is sought solely because of the sex of the unborn child shall be deemed a necessary abortion.”

To Johnson, that suggested that “federal funds will subsidize coverage of abortion performed for any reason, except sex selection. 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."

But Rosanne Placey of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department disputed that. Placey said the language in the solicitation was just “a placeholder” and that “the bottom line is we will abide by all federal regulations,” which means “someone couldn’t come in and get an abortion on demand.”

The Pennyslvania plan, she said, is not yet up and running. The insurance commissioner is in the midst of contract negotiations. The plan will initially insure 3,800 Pennsylvanians, she said, and ramp up to coverage for up to 6,000 individuals.

Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jenny Backus said ”in Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”

- Jake Tapper

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