Democrat Bart Stupak Accuses Pro-Life Groups of 'Politicizing' Abortion Issue to Undermine Health Care Reform

By Susan Jones | July 15, 2010 | 5:42 AM EDT

( - Several Democrats say pro-life conservatives have it wrong: They say the $160 million taxpayer dollars going to fund Pennsylvania's new high-risk insurance pool will not fund abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, or where the "life of the woman would be endangered."
As reported on Wednesday, pro-life conservatives and Republicans have reacted furiously to a report that the Obama administration has approved funding for Pennsylvania’s new high-risk insurance pool, which would directly pay for abortions. 
The alarm was sounded by the National Right to Life Committee, which said on its Website Tuesday:
"The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new 'high-risk' insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March -- and has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of Governor Edward Rendell (D) under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania."
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), called it the “first proof of the phoniness of President Obama’s assurances that federal funds would not subsidize abortion.”
‘Abortions will not be covered’
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jenny Backus released a statement on Wednesday saying that under the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s March 24, 2010 Executive Order, "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," Backus said. "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."

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., announces he will vote to pass the health care reform bill after President Obama agreed to sign an executive order reaffirming the ban on using federal funds to provide abortions. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who initially raised the hopes of pro-life Americans when he took a stand against abortion coverage in the Democrats’ health care bill, also posted a message Wednesday, rejecting claims that Pennsylvania's high-risk insurance pools would allow for federal funding of abortion:
“This is the latest example of some right to life groups politicizing life issues in an effort to undermine health care reform," Stupak said. "The President’s Executive Order makes clear that federal funds may not be used for abortion under the Affordable Care Act – including the (high-risk) insurance pools currently being implemented in Pennsylvania and states across the country. 
Stupak noted that in accordance with President Obama’s Executive Order, the Department of Health and Human Services has told states that federal funds provided under the new health care law may not be used to fund abortion.  “HHS has reiterated this policy in response to the current accusations from the National Right to Life Committee,” Stupak said.
"While these recycled scare tactics may make for good headlines, we should not lose sight of the fact that tens of thousands of individuals across the nation who have been denied coverage by health insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions will for the first time have access to affordable health insurance.  We need to take a whole life approach to health care which looks out for those who are out of the womb as well as those in the womb,” Stupak concluded.
Stupak, who first insisted that pro-life protections be included in the Democrats' health care bill, ended up voting for a bill that did not include such protections. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment -- which was dropped from the final legislation -- would have banned federal funds from subsidizing abortion or insurance plans that cover abortion.
In an attempt to quell the outrage of pro-lifers that taxpayer dollars might be used to pay for abortion, President Obama signed an Executive Order on March 24, 2010, “to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services.”
The president's Executive Order did not satisfy pro-life groups, however. In fact, as the pro-life Family Research Council noted, the "uselessness" of the executive order was one of the few things that FRC and Planned Parenthood agreed on during the health care debate.
‘Elective abortions are not covered’ – or are they?
The National Right to Life Committee says that on June 28, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario (appointed by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell) issued a press release announcing that the federal Health and Human Services Department had approved his agency's proposal for establishing g a high-risk health insurance pool in Pennsylvania. 
"The state will receive $160 million to set up the program, which will provide coverage to as many as 5,600 people between now and 2014," Ario’s news release said. "The plan's benefit package will include preventive care, physician services, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, mental health services, prescription medications and much more, with subsidized premiums of $283 a month."
It was the "much more" phrase that troubled the National Right to Life Committee:
The NRLC noted that the Pennsylvania plan's section on abortion – found on page 14 of the plan -- says "elective abortions are not covered." But NRLC called that statement a "red herring, because the operative language does not define 'elective.’”
The Pennsylvania plan says it includes “only abortions and contraceptives that satisfy the requirements of (Pennsylvania law),” and it specifically refers to 18 Pa.C.S. § 3204-3206 and 35 P.S. §§10101, 10103-10105.
The most pertinent law, according to NRLC, is 18 Pa. C.S. § 3204, which says that an abortion is legal in Pennsylvania if a single physician believes that it is “necessary” based on “all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman."
NRLC noted that Pennsylvania law bans abortion prior to 24 weeks, only if it is being done "solely because of the sex of the unborn child."
Therefore, given the way the guidelines are written, under the Pennsylvania plan, “federal funds will subsidize coverage of abortion performed for any reason, except sex selection," said NRLC's Johnson.
"The Pennsylvania proposal conspicuously lacks language that would prevent funding of abortions performed as a method of birth control or for any other reason, except sex selection -- and the Obama Administration has now approved this," Johnson said.