Sebelius Claims Senate Health Care Bill Does Not Provide Federal Funds for Abortion

March 15, 2010 - 11:20 PM
Contradicting the nation's Catholic bishops and the minority leader of the U.S. House, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed Monday that the Senate health-care bill uses no federal money to pay for elective abortions. 
Kathleen Sebelius

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Cenetafile)

(CNSNews.com) – U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, contradicting both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and members of Congress, said Monday that the Senate health-care bill uses no federal money to pay for health care plans which cover elective abortions.
 
“There is no federal funding for abortion in either the House or the Senate bill,” Sebelius told CNSNews.com during a telephone news conference on Monday on health information technology.
 
“Go to the Congressional Research Service, which is the objective research body, for their detailed analysis of how both is handled,” she added.
 
Sebelius’ statement stands in direct opposition to statements from the USCCB and numerous members of Congress, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), both of whom oppose the Senate health care bill because it allows taxpayer money to go to health care plans which cover elective abortions.
 
In a Dec. 22 letter to the U.S. Senate, the USCCB detailed that the Senate bill “violates longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions.”
 
The bishops further point out: “Federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion. There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions.”



In addition, the USCCB issued a 13-page document explaining why the Senate bill allows tax dollars to fund abortion. 
 
“Of the two bills, only the House bill conforms to current law on abortion funding,” reads the document, which credits Stupak’s pro-life amendment.
 
“Thus under the Senate bill, notwithstanding ‘the segregation of funds’ provision, federal subsidies will be used to help expand access nationwide to abortion coverage,” reads the document.
 
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), meanwhile, said the Senate bill contains "layers of accounting gimmicks" that will result in American taxpayers paying for an “abortion premium.”
 
Under Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) “manager’s amendment,” there is no ban on abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans participating in the newly created insurance exchanges, Boehner said in a press release.
 
"Everyone enrolled in these plans must pay a monthly abortion premium (p. 41, lines 5-8), and these funds will be used to pay for the elective abortion services." Moreover, Boehner noted, "The Reid amendment directs insurance companies to assess the cost of elective abortion coverage (p. 43), and charge a minimum of $1 per enrollee per month (p. 43, lines 20-22).
 
"In short, the Reid bill continues to defy the will of the American people and contradict longstanding federal policy by providing federal subsidies to private health plans that cover elective abortions. The new language does include a ‘state opt-out’ provision if a state passes a law to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion, but it’s a sham because it does nothing to prevent one state’s tax dollars from paying for elective abortions in other states."

Said Boehner: "Health reform should be an opportunity to protect human life – not end it."

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, agreed with the Catholic’s bishops and Congressman Boehner, calling the state opt-out option a “Band-Aid” because it misses the material point: Federal Funds will still go to health insurance plans which cover elective abortions.
 
“(The opt-out) means that the people in those states are still going to be subsidizing abortion insurance coverage in other states,” Johnson told CNSNews.com “You’re not opting out of the taxes that are supporting -- that are subsidizing abortion insurance through the no-premium subsidy program. You’re just saying the citizens in our state won’t have the coverage, but they will still, of course, be paying the taxes.”
 
Johnson continued, “The root of the problem in the bill in this particular section is that federal -- these new premium subsidies, tax credits, which are intended to help tens of millions of Americans buy health insurance will go to subsidize plans that cover abortion on demand.”
 
“What they’re opting out of is just the coverage, not the obligation of the taxpayer to pay for these subsidies,” Johnson stated.
 
Johnson noted that the Senate health-care bill breaks from long-standing federal policy.

“That’s a violation of the principles of the Hyde amendment,” Johnson said.

The Senate rejected language by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that mirrored the pro-life Stupak amendment in the House legislation, which passed by a bi-partisan majority on Nov. 7. The Stupak amendment, sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) prohibits federal money from going to any part of a health care plan which covers abortion.
 
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Transcript:
 
CNSNews.com: Leader Boehner said in a press release that, quote, “The Reid bill continues to defy the will of the American people and contradict longstanding federal policy by providing federal subsidies to private health plans that cover elective abortions.”
 
CNSNews.com: And speaking to the manager’s amendment, he goes on to say, quote, “The new language does include ‘a state-opt-out’ provision if a state passes a law to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion, but it’s a sham because it does nothing to prevent one state’s tax dollars from paying for elective abortions in other states.”
 
CNSNews.com: And my question is, does the Senate health care bill contain a provision to prevent taxpayer money from a state which opts-out from paying for elective abortions in other states?
 
Sec. Kathleen Sebelius: First of all, I’d really like to stick to the Health IT information. There is no federal funding for abortion in either the House or the Senate bill. And go to the Congressional Research Service which is the objective research body for their detailed analysis of how both is handled.  But this really is about health IT. And operator, if there are questions dealing with the grants today, we’d be happy to take them.
 
CNSNews.com: Okay. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does say the Senate bill—
 
Operator (interrupting): And once again, to ask questions, and please remember to keep this only to the media…