Originally published at The Wonk Room by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
At the White House summit on healthcare reform, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) once again repeated the misleading canard that the White House’s embrace of the Senate health reform bill’s language on abortion would allow public funding of that procedure. This opinion can be explained only with the most twisted logic and inconsistent positioning about indirect funding and “fungible” money:
For 30 years we’ve had a federal law that says we’re not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We’ve had this debate in the House – it was a very serious debate. But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld language we’ve had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions. This bill that we have before us – and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President – begins for the first time in 30 years, allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions.
For those of you scratching your head at all of this, here’s a brief review.
When we last left the world of healthcare reform and abortion funding, the House bill included the noxious “Stupak Amendment,” which prohibits insurances plans that accept government subsidies in the new health market exchange from providing abortion services, except under the most extreme circumstances, even if only private money were used to pay for those services. Most if not all women in the exchange would only be able to purchase coverage through an impractical, separate abortion “rider.”
The Senate bill included a deal with Senator Nelson that was only slightly less onerous. In that legislation, health plans may offer abortion coverage, but only if their customers write two checks each month – one for the share of their premium that’s allocated for abortion services and one for all other health care coverage — even though both checks would come from the customers’ private funds, not from government coffers. The Nelson deal also included language that encourages states to pass their own version of the Stupak Amendment.
The White House’s plan for healthcare reform, released Monday, maintains Senator Nelson’s approach in its entirety. It is consistent with current prohibitions on federal funding of abortion in that it creates a firewall between publicly- and privately-funded premiums and only allows private money to cover abortion costs. However, it fails to fix the unnecessary and discriminatory provisions mentioned above. While the means for passing comprehensive health reform are limited at this point, it is nonetheless disappointing that the White House did not acknowledge the faults in the Nelson language and look for ways to remove its worst features.
Abortion opponents claim to hate the Nelson language, but they should celebrate if it gets through. Although it’s not as retrograde as the Stupak Amendment, it still represents unprecedented restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortion care, making it much more cumbersome for insurers to offer coverage and for consumers to obtain it.
The White House plan includes several provisions that will make health insurance better for women, but abortion remains the one area where it will be worse.