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Did Supreme Court Skip the More Important Obamacare Subsidies?

Pro-life groups argue taxpayer premiums are funding abortions.
Did Supreme Court Skip the More Important Obamacare Subsidies?
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US Rep. Chris Smith in January re-introducing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

Two leading pro-life groups say the recent US Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) means that taxpayer dollars will continue to pay for abortions.

“Federal taxpayer subsidies are helping pay for over 1,000 health plans that cover abortion on demand, and [last week's] Supreme Court decision underscores that only Congress can put a stop to that,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

“This decision again demonstrates the need for enactment of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would permanently prevent taxpayer subsidies for abortion-covering health plans, both in ObamaCare and in other federal health benefits programs.”

In January, the US House passed that measure (HR 7) by a vote of 242–179. President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill if Congress approved it. But AUL Action, the advocacy arm of Americans United for Life, has called on the Senate to vote on the bill as soon as possible. GOP Senators Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Pat Roberts (Kan.) introduced the bill (S.582) in February.

“Whether or not an insurance exchange is established by the federal or state government,” Charmaine Yoest, AUL Action president, said, “it receives taxpayer dollars, which should not be used to pay for abortions and life-ending drugs and devices.”

In last week’s Supreme Court ruling (King v. Burwell), the majority (6–3) ruled that the federally run health insurance exchanges in 36 states can receive taxpayer subsidies through the Affordable Care Act and qualified health plans. Experts consider this ruling a big victory for the Obama administration, the second one that the high court has given to "Obamacare."

Last September, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report focusing on abortion services available in those 36 states, where www.healthcare.gov offers health plans. It found that 1,036 plans cover abortion services and 1,062 plans do not.

According to AUL Action: “Abortion is woven into the healthcare law at multiple levels, making repeal of the law a pro-life necessity, including:

  • Permitting federally subsidized qualified health plans to provide abortion coverage through the state insurance exchanges required in all 50 states.
  • Failing to prohibit all multi-state qualified health plans from providing coverage for abortion.
  • Failing to provide comprehensive First Amendment conscience protections for individuals, employers, and insurance companies that have religious or moral objections to abortion.”

Additionally, the GAO report said 4 of 18 health plan issuers surveyed did not disclose to enrollees that abortion would be covered; 11 plans did not disclose this information at the time of enrollment; and others only provided such information if an enrollee asked.

Under the law, insurance providers are required to keep payments for abortion coverage in a separate account from other insurance premiums.

All along, pro-life groups have called on Congress to follow the limitations on abortion provided in the Hyde Amendment, which barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except if a pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Members of Congress attached the amendment to health care spending bills, starting in 1976 when Rep. Henry Hyde, the late Illinois Republican, first introduced the ban.

“There are, by conservative estimate, more than one million Americans who were born alive and are with us today, who would have been aborted if the Hyde Amendment had not been in place,” Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director, testified in Congress in 2011.

“The Guttmacher Institute has termed this a ‘tragic result,’ but the National Right to Life Committee regards it a major pro-life success story. The Hyde Amendment is the most successful domestic abortion reduction policy ever enacted by Congress.”

A January 2015 survey, performed by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, found that 68 percent of all Americans oppose the use of government funding to pay for abortion. Marist researchers also found that, among people who identified themselves as pro-choice, 47 percent supported using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion.

In Vermont, the federal court is now hearing a case in which a man is refusing to enroll in Vermont Health Connect, a state exchange, because a portion of his premium paid for abortion services and this violates his religious convictions. The case remains in litigation.

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