House Leader Hoyer Ducks Question on ‘Morality’ of Taxpayer-Funded Abortions in Health Reform Bill

By Matt Cover | November 3, 2009 | 6:57 PM EST

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

( – House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) dodged a question about whether it is morally right to force taxpayers to pay for any part of a health insurance plan that covers abortion, which the House health care bill does, according to, the Congressional Research Service, and even pro-life fellow Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
Currently, the House bill (H.R. 3926) allows taxpayer subsidies to pay for health plans that cover abortion.  This is the case because there is no way to tell whether the money used to pay for the procedure came from a federal subsidy or a personal premium or a combination of both.
When asked by whether it was morally right to force taxpayers to pay for any part of a health plan that provides abortions, Hoyer did not answer directly. He instead claimed that he had already answered the question earlier in the briefing. “Is it morally right to require taxpayers to pay for any part of a health insurance plan which covers abortion?”
Hoyer answered, “I think I’ve already answered that in terms of that we’re going to preclude that [from happening],” and then he quickly moved on to another question.
The question Hoyer referred to was actually about whether he might be able to solve the “abortion issue” in a manager’s amendment to the health care bill, not whether it was morally right to force taxpayers to fund abortion.
That other question was as follows: “How are you going to settle the abortion issue and will that be settled in the manager’s amendment?”
Hoyer, speaking at his weekly pad-and-pen news conference,  answered that he was “still working” on a compromise with Congressman Stupak and a coalition of approximately 40 House Democrats who want to amend H.R. 3926 to prohibit any federal funds from being used to pay for any part of a health plan that covers abortion.
Hoyer also said he was “reasonably confident” the issue could be solved through the manager’s amendment process, whereby various amendments are combined into one package and voted on as a whole.
“We’re still working on that,” Hoyer said of the manager’s amendment, “and I’m reasonably confident – I’ve talked to people with varying views on that – but I’m pretty confident we can get there.”
Hoyer described that so-called compromise as language that would prohibit federal subsidies from being used to pay for abortions while still allowing the procedure to be paid for with money from individual premium payments.
“Essentially, making it very clear that any money spent on the issue of terminating a pregnancy [abortion] will be spent not by the government but the individuals,” said Hoyer.
Money, however, is fungible, and insurance companies would not be able to tell whether the money they pay to an abortionist came from federal subsidies or individual premiums, or even whether that money came from the premiums paid by the woman having the abortion.
This is because private insurance is organized into pools, or groups of people covered under the same insurance policy. Premiums paid by individuals into the pool are combined by the insurance company and this larger sum of money is used to pay the covered medical expenses of everyone in the pool.
Under the House health plan, people making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, about $88,000 per year for a family of four, can receive a federal subsidy to help pay part of their health insurance premiums. Because these federal subsidies would go into the same pool as the premium an individual would pay out-of-pocket, insurance companies would not be able to tell which is which when paying for abortion.
Hoyer’s press office did not respond to’s attempts to let the congressman respond directly to the morality question.