What’s The Truth About Abortion and ‘Unresolved Issues’ In House Health Reform Legislation?

Is anyone else as confused and irritated as I am about the obfuscation of the facts regarding abortion care coverage in health care reform legislation?

According to CQ Politics yesterday, a "showdown" is shaping up over abortion services, among Democrats in the House. Anti-choice Democrats are demanding that the bill "explicitly ban abortion funding." But why?

While the issue is being reported on and discussed as if its a question of whether or not to extend the current ban on federal funds for abortion services (as is layed out in the 40 year old Hyde Amendment) to any health care reform efforts currently underway, the truth is (as it usually is) much different. 

The Hyde Amendment bans federal funds from going towards abortion care. This means that government subsidy programs like Medicaid cannot cover the cost of a woman’s abortion though, of course, each state is free to pass their own laws governing how state taxpayer money can or cannot be used. This means that for women who do not have health insurance that covers abortion care or for women who have no health insurance, abortion is only an option if you cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket or if you are lucky enough to be the recipient of financial assistance from an abortion fund. 

The Hyde Amendment is not going anywhere under health care reform. Nor does the current version of The Affordable Healthcare for America Act mandate federal funding for abortion coverage. But anti-choice Democrats in the House, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, want assurances:

The anti-abortion Democrats want to win
language that would essentially extend the existing abortion funding
ban known as the “Hyde amendment” to the new and expanded programs that
would be created by the health care overhaul. 

This is seriously coded language: "extend the…ban…to the new and expanded programs created…" What does this mean? Under current law private insurers obviously cover abortion care. And why shouldn’t they? We’re talking about a procedure that is legal and part of the scope of women’s health.

So, what are anti-choice legislators up-in-arms about? What does this coded language really mean?

(And, before I go on, please take a moment to sit and meditate on the fact that this – this– is what some activists are spending millions of dollars, countless hours and bodies full or rage focusing on. Not poverty. Not disease prevention. Not ensuring that pregnant women receive adequate coverage under reform measures. Not ensuring that our this country’s inflated mortality rate is addressed under reform. Nope.) This is what they’re using precious resources to fight:

Banning abortion coverage in private insurance as well.

Anti-choice legislators and advocates will not accept that since some private insurers (well, most) cover abortion care for women, if we have a government-funded/government-run, public option of some kind, some Americans will need to rely on a combination of both private insurance and public insurance to meet their health care coverage needs. So, for instance, if a woman who receives federal tax dollars to assist her health coverage is also a part of the private insurance pool which covers abortion, this is essentially the same as the federal government paying for abortion services. 

Although Speaker Pelosi and her team have discussed a compromise to ensure that these monies are kept entirely separate,

The compromise language is
similar to current restrictions on the use of federal Medicaid funds.
The provision would ensure that federal dollars are kept in separate
accounts when they flow into health insurance plans, and that federal
accounts could not be used to fund an abortion.

it’s apparently not enough ("too weak") for Stupak and his crew. Clearly, anti-choice legislators are using this as another opportunity to impose their political agenda upon a piece of legislation with little regard for women’s health and lives. And if anti-choice legislators were as vociferous and active as Speaker Pelosi and other reproductive justice and women’s rights activists when it came to exposing and correcting the injustices surrounding discrimination against pregnant women, mothers and domestic violence victims at the hands of insurance companies in this health reform effort, I may be less apt to call their political posturing loathsome and self-serving. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, talking about the legislation, calls the abortion coverage concern "the most important unresolved issue" as leaders attempt to bring it to the floor, reports CQ Midday

But it’s more accurate to say that it’s anti-choice Democrats – and not abortion care – that is blocking movement on this measure.

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  • crowepps

    It may be the “most important unresolved issue” to the male Democrats involved, but then, they’re never going to NEED the coverage, are they?

  • jeornom

    It may be the "most important unresolved issue" to the male Democrats involved, but then, they’re never going to NEED the coverage, are they?


    Just like the fact that you’ve been born means you’ll never NEED protection from being aborted.


    That must explain why you never seem to regard the defenseless half of the human life in the woman + fetus equation.

  • ldan


    Seriously, holding hostage legislation that will provide health care to millions of actual people–with lives, communities and loved ones–over the possibility that federal money will end up in an institution that does abortions is not just ridiculous, it’s evil and cruel. Considering that women who have abortions will continue to find some way of doing so, this objection isn’t even holding things hostage in hopes of saving those potential lives. It’s all about ideology and pandering to a non-logical base.

  • crowepps

    Apparently your solution is to defend the fetus by removing the defenses which the woman now has available to pregnancy complications and making HER defenseless instead. Ever read this story?


    And of course I hardly need point out, YOU’LL never need to be protected from being aborted either.

  • colleen

    It’s apparently not enough (“too weak”) for Stupak and his crew. Clearly, anti-choice legislators are using this as another opportunity to impose their political agenda upon a piece of legislation with little regard for women’s health and lives

    If the last few months of ‘witness’ from the anti-abortion/contraception movement has done anything it’s been to reveal the depths of the contempt the (bi-partisan) religious and political leadership of the ‘pro-life’ movement has for the lives and health of women.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • flioba

    Please, please, please correct Nancy Pelosi’s title: She is Speaker of the House, not Senator. You repeatedly call her Senator Pelosi in this article. Thanks.

  • flioba

    Thanks for fixing that so quickly!

  • amie-newman

    Speed = carelessness at times. Thanks so much!


    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • mrsyrt19