Opponents Fighting Obamacare Deal to Force Tax-Paid Abortions

Pro-life activists urge lawmakers to reject insurance subsidies without prohibition on pregnancy termination

Anti-abortion activists are mobilizing against an emerging congressional compromise on Obamacare insurance subsidies that they contend could allow hundreds of thousands of taxpayer-funded abortions.

At issue is a program under the Affordable Care Act meant to help customers with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket health care expenses. It has been in legal limbo since a federal judge ruled last year that Congress never authorized the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been working on legislation to codify those payments.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have proposed another stabilization fund that would make payments to insurance plans that cover abortion.

Critics contend that both proposals would open the door for taxpayer funding of abortion.

“We believe no American should be forced to pay for any abortion, whatsoever,” said Jim Sedlak, executive director of the American Life League.

March for Life Action also sent letters this week to every senator and representative warning that it will count the vote on this bill in its pro-life scorecard. The group’s vice president of government affairs, Tom McClusky, told LifeZette that he cannot imagine any politicians who votes for the bill without anti-abortion protections would be invited to speak at the annual March of Life in Washington.

“In other words, a pro-life Congress will have opened the doors to more taxpayer funding of abortion.”

McClusky said House leaders have asked anti-abortion groups to push senators to hold firm on the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited most taxpayer-funded abortions since it took effect in 1976. But that provision applies only to the labor and health and human services budgets, not the insurance subsidies.

McClusky said there is a very real chance that the bill could pass if attached to must-pass legislation to keep the government open. The issue, he said, is worth a government shutdown.

“I would give it a high enough likelihood in that the House is afraid the Senate will jam them with a very bad bill,” he said.

The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed a bipartisan consensus for decades, and McClusky pointed to polls showing that using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions is overwhelmingly unpopular.

But that agreement has been fraying as liberal activist groups increasingly push for an end to the Hyde Amendment, named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). For the first time, the Democratic Party platform adopted in 2016 explicitly called for repealing it. The National Network of Abortion Funds hosted a conference call in September to build support for repealing restrictions on abortion funding.

The cost-reduction sharing payments have been controversial. Obamacare advocates contend that the individual insurance market would unravel without them. But a judge ruled that Congress never authorized the payments, and President Donald Trump has toyed with ending what he terms insurance company bailouts.

But Collins extracted a promise from Senate Republican leaders to take up the issue in exchange for her support for the GOP tax bill heading toward final passage this week.

The March for Life Action letters to members of Congress note that the Senate legislation could involve more than $21 billion in new funding over two years and could allow more than 1.2 million people to receive elective abortions. McClusky said an executive order President Barack Obama signed to ostensibly prohibit the subsidies from covering abortions is unenforceable.

Related: Leftists Ready All-Out Assault on Hyde Amendment

“If such a bill does not explicitly include the Hyde Amendment protections, cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers will fund plans that cover abortion,” the letters to members of Congress state. “In other words, a pro-life Congress will have opened the doors to more taxpayer funding of abortion.”

Abortion opponents on Tuesday delivered letters signed by representatives of 50 organizations to leaders on Capitol Hill urging Congress not to pass the bills without language mirroring the Hyde Amendment. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that the Hyde Amendment has prevented some 2 million abortions since it took effect.

“Any member voting for the Alexander-Murray proposal, or other Obamacare stabilization legislation not covered by the Hyde amendment, would not only be voting to sustain what many have called the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade, but would also be voting to directly appropriate taxpayer dollars for insurance that includes elective abortion,” the letter states.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter here.