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Obama Administration Announces New Ban on Abortion Funds

July 16, 2010

The assault on abortion care continues as details for the health care reform bill emerge. On Wednesday, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jenny Backus, issued the following statement about the coverage of abortion care in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Policy:
“As is the case with FEHB plans currently, and with the Affordable Care Act and the President's related Executive Order more generally, 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. Our policy is the same for both state and federally-run PCIP programs. We will reiterate this policy in guidance to those running the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan at both the state and federal levels. The contracts to operate the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan include a requirement to follow all federal laws and guidance.”
The PCIP, also known as high risk pools, are three-year health insurance plans that the federal and all state governments must set up or expand to include persons who are unable to qualify for private coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The statement came after National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, (R-OH) kicked up a fuss over Pennsylvania’s plan. While explicitly refusing coverage for “elective” abortions, the Pennsylvania plan would cover procedures deemed "'necessary' based on 'all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman.'" Under Pennsylvania law, abortions for the purpose of sex-selection is not permitted. As NARAL Pro-Choice’s Nancy Keenan remarks, “The administration’s policy is similar to the ban proposed by anti-choice Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).” The Stupak amendment prohibits the use of federal funds "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" with the exception of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother cases. RH Reality Check’s Jessica Arron explains that the recently issued statement contradicts the Obama administration’s previous stance of maintaining the status quo of existing regulations, which do no restrict the use of federal or state funds for abortion coverageon PCIPs. In issuing the statement, Arron argues that the Obama administation is “go[ing] out of its way to appease those who have always opposed health reform and who will continue to make political targets of those who voted for reform regardless of what the Administration does on abortion.” In a press release, Planned Parenthood explains why the policy puts women who qualify for the PCIP at a greater health risk:
“The very women who need to purchase private health insurance in the new high-risk pools are likely to be more vulnerable to medically complicated pregnancies. It is truly harmful to these women that the administration may impose limits on how they use their own private dollars, limiting their health care options at a time when they need them most. This decision has no basis in the law and flies in the face of the intent of the high-risk pools that were meant to meet the medical needs of some of the most vulnerable women in this country."
Women’s health care and needs must not to be compromised and leveraged for political purposes. Through its Not Under the Bus campaign, The Women’s Media Center has and will continue to insist on health care reform that makes women’s health care fair, safe and covered for all. For more of our coverage on reproductive rights and women’s health, click here , here , here , and here