Boxer Says She Backs ‘Hyde Idea’ To Bar Federal Funds For Abortion, But Voted Against Hyde-Like Language In Health Care Bill

December 15, 2009 - 2:22 PM
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said Monday she supports the "Hyde idea" of barring taxpayer funding of abortion, but voted against including an amendment to that effect in the Senate health care bill.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) (AP Photo)

Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com) – When asked about the health care bill and taxpayer-funding of health plans that cover abortion, Sen. Barbara Baoxer (D-Calif.) said on Monday that she supports the “Hyde idea,” in reference to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funds from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
 
But a week ago, Boxer voted against an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that would have added language virtually identical to the Hyde amendment to the Senate health care bill.  
 
At a Capitol Hill press conference on Monday, CNSNews.com asked Boxer: “Is it morally right to use tax dollars from pro-life Americans to fund plans that do that [pay for abortion]?  What is your opinion on that?”
 
Boxer said:  “Okay. Well, I support Roe v. Wade, and Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.  And that’s where I stand. And I also think in this bill it’s important to keep a firewall between private funds and public funds, and that’s been my position.  In other words, keep the status quo. Any other questions?” 
 
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision which ushered in abortion on demand. 
 
She further said: “[M]y whole thing is that I want to see the status quo preserved, which is the Hyde idea, because it’s been an uneasy truce between the people who are pro-choice and the people who are anti-choice that we'll have a firewall between public funds--I would not say public funds, but federal funds--between federal funds and private funds.”
 

 
 
The Hyde amendment, which has been added to the annual Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill since 1976, and to other bills that cover health care programs funded by the federal government, bars tax dollars from going to health care plans that cover abortion except in certain cases.
 
The amendmnet says, “None of the funds appropriated under this Act shall be expended for any abortion except when it is made known to the federal entity or official to which funds are appropriated under this Act that such procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother or that the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
 
The Hyde amendment would not apply to the Senate health care bill because the subsidies the bill would create to help people buy health insurance with tax dollars would not run through any of the HHS appropriation or any other appropriations bill that includes the Hyde amendment. 
 
In fact, the Senate plan, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” includes a section headlined the “Assured Availability of Varied Coverage Through Exchanges.” In this section, on p. 120 of the 2,074-page of the bill, it requires the HHS secretary to ensure that at least one health insurance plan offered in government-regulated insurance exchanges -- where people will be able to purchase health insurance using government subsidies -- must provide coverage of abortion. 
 
The secretary also must make certain that at least one plan available in the exchanges does not cover abortions. 
 
The relevant language says: “The Secretary shall assure that with respect to qualified health plans offered in any Exchange established pursuant to this title—(I) there is at least one such plan that provides coverage of services described in clauses (i) and (ii) of subparagraph (B); and (II) there is at least one such plan that does not provide coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i)." 

The clause “(i)” of “subparagraph (B)” referred to in this passage defines those types of abortions currently banned from receiving federal funding under the Hyde amendment.
 
The language of the Senate’s health care bill mandates that at least one health insurance plan available to people buying health insurance with federal subsidies cover those abortions that are currently prohibited from receiving federal funding under the Hyde amendment.
 
The amendment introduced by Sen. Nelson (D-Neb.) would have essentially applied the Hyde amendment language to the bill. For example, in the Nelson amendment, it states: “(1) IN GENERAL.—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
 
However, on Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Senate voted 54-45 to table – to end consideration of – the Nelson amendment. Seven Democrats and 38 Republicans voted against tabling Nelson’s amendment while 52 Democrats and two Republicans voted for tabling the amendment and thus ending it.
 
Senator Boxer voted to table, to end the Nelson amendment.
 
A transcript of the exchange between CNSNews.com and Sen. Boxer is provided below:

 
CNSNews.com: “On page 120 of the Senate health care bill, it says that the HHS (Health and Human Services) secretary must ensure that at least one insurance company in the exchange where people will use tax dollars to buy insurance must cover elective abortions –“
 
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): “You’re from CNS, right?”
 
CNSNews.com: “Yes, Karen Schuberg from CNSNews.com.” 
 
Sen. Boxer: “Yes, hi.”
 
CNSNews.com: “Hi. How are you?”
 
Sen. Boxer: “Good.”
 
CNSNews.com:  “And I was wondering, what is your opinion on—Is it morally right to
use tax dollars from pro-life Americans to fund plans that do that?  What is your opinion on that?”
 
Sen. Boxer: “Okay. Well, I support Roe v. Wade, and Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.  And that’s where I stand. And I also think in this bill it’s important to keep a firewall between private funds and public funds, and that’s been my position.  In other words, keep the status quo. Any other questions?”
 
CNSNews.com: “But the bill does say that –“
 
Sen. Boxer: “Any other questions from anybody on anything else?”
 
Another reporter at the press conference: “Just to follow up on that, how confident are you that what ends up getting voted on as it pertains to the language pertaining to this issue that will be satisfactory to you?”
 
Sen. Boxer: “Well, as I said, I’m not going to negotiate right out here, but I am working, and my whole thing is that I want to see the status quo preserved which is the Hyde idea, because it’s been an uneasy truce between the people who are pro-choice and the people who are anti-choice that we'll have a firewall between public funds--I would not say public funds, but federal funds--between federal funds and private funds.  That’s, that’s been the way we’ve reached this agreement.  So I can support an agreement that honors that status quo, and I’m hoping that since all sides are saying that’s what they want, I’m hoping we can resolve it.  I really thank you very much.”