Aug. 13, 2009— -- People at town hall meetings across the nation are wondering whether the government would pay for abortions with taxpayer money under health care reform or would include the right to have an abortion.
"I did not want to pay on a health care plan that includes the right for a woman to kill her unborn baby," a woman told Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa. earlier this week. "Is it true that this plan is in the health care bill?"
While the original bills both in the House and Senate never explicitly addressed abortion, Section 1714 of the House bill, H.R. 3200, does talk about family planning for women on Medicaid, the existing federal-state health care program for the poor.
Section 1714 would make states automatically eligible for matching federal funds if they wanted to offer family planning services to women who do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid because they make too much money. Currently, states wanting to pursue this approach need a special waiver from the federal government.
As for whether or not health care reform would allow federal taxpayer money to be used for abortions, it is unclear.
Current law says federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
But under health care reform plans, lower income Americans would have their health care subsidized by the government, and they would be allowed to pick a health care plan that covers abortion.
The president has said it is not his intention for the government to pay for abortions.
"I'm pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care," Obama said on CBS July 21.
Unclear Whether Federal Taxpayers Could Fund Abortions
One version of the House reform bill, by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would allow health plans to cover abortions, as long as they were paid for entirely with private funds.That provision is made in an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif.
Keeping public and private money separate might not be the easiest thing to regulate, but experts say it could work.
However, the version with the Capps amendment may or may not end up being the final bill that goes to the House floor.
The Senate, in the meantime, is still working on its bill.
So, it is unclear whether taxpayers could ultimately fund abortions through these reforms or not.