Subsidizing Health Plans That Cover Abortion Is Not Federal Funding of Abortion, Democrats Say

By Nicholas Ballasy | February 9, 2011 | 4:33 AM EST

( -- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday that providing individuals with subsidies under the health care law to purchase health insurance plans that cover abortion services is not considered federal funding of abortion.

“It’s not federal funding,” she said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “We’re saying people have the right to get insurance, whatever insurance they want, and they get a tax credit for providing insurance. We’re not spending federal funds on abortion. So, what they are doing is twisting and turning what the meaning is of federal funds that has never been contemplated before.”

Boxer gathered with other Democratic senators at the press conference to "express their opposition to legislation being pushed by House Republicans this week that would endanger women's health by severely limiting their access to affordable health care and reproductive health services,” they said in a statement.

Boxer continued: “I mean, if you start using their [Republicans’] definition, I can tell you right now there’s no end to it. They can say, ‘We’re going to raise taxes for any family whose daughter ever had an abortion.’ I mean, let’s get real here. They’re twisting the meaning. It is not federal funding.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) also remarked, “When your company -- before the health care reform -- when your company bought health insurance for you and it was not considered income and, therefore, you weren’t taxed on it and it did cover all reproductive services, you could make the exact same argument. So, this is no change, right? You don’t have to agree with me, you’re a journalist, but I think that my logic is impeccable.”

The proposed "Protect Life Act," sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) would prevent federal funding of abortion services under the health care legislation passed last year by the Democrat-led Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March.

The Pitts bill would also prohibit the federal government from suspending federal funding from institutions that choose not to provide abortion services.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Boxer said that subsidizing health insurance plans that cover abortion services is not “direct” federal funding of abortion.

“Look, they [Republicans] tried to redefine rape for purposes of reimbursement under Medicaid,” she said. “They tried to redefine incest for purposes of reimbursing under Medicaid and now they’re redefining what federal funds are. There are no direct federal funds and that’s what is contemplated under Hyde [Amendment] and we’ve had this decades-long compromise, and we stand by it. It’s bipartisan. It’s decades long.”

She continued, “It’s worked well and they’re trying to just frankly destroy it, and they’re doing it in a partisan fashion. It’s not what we came here to do and they’re twisting and turning every way they can in order to get what they want, which is essentially not allowing anyone, anyone, even someone whose life is threatened, even someone who’s a victim of incest or rape to have access, but not only to abortion but to health care.”

The Hyde Amendment,  created in 1976, is attached each year to the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and prevents any program under HHS, such as Medicaid, from paying for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at risk.