"The president said "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions." But the House bill would permit a public option to cover all abortions, and would also permit federal subsidies to be used to purchase private insurance that covers all abortions, a point that raises objections from anti-abortion groups. That's true despite a technical ban on use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion coverage."
The president insisted that no federal money would pay for abortions:
Obama: [U]nder our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.
The truth of that depends on what is meant by federal dollars. Actually, as we've written before, under Democratic legislation now before Congress, the public option would cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother and could cover all abortions if the administration chooses, and as Obama once promised. Private insurance plans purchased with the help of federal subsidies to low- and moderate-income workers also could cover all abortions, as many, if not most, private plans do today.
Under an amendment adopted by a House committee, abortions would be paid for by the "public option" only with money collected from policyholders in the form of premiums, not with money collected from taxpayers. But is money collected by the government and paid out to abortion providers by the government œfederal dollars"? The anti-abortion side says yes. And the same goes for federal subsidies given to low- and moderate-income persons to help them buy insurance. If they use those dollars to buy private policies that cover all abortions, does that mean federal dollars go to fund abortions? Again, abortion foes say yes.
The advocates of abortion rights argue otherwise. They say the House bill would be an extension of longstanding policy under the Hyde amendment, which forbids use of federal taxpayer dollars to fund Medicaid abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother's life, but also allows states to use their own Medicaid money to fund other abortions (and 17 of them do). In any case, the matter is not so simple or clear as the president would like it to seem."
From the USCCB, press release September 10, 2009 (taking the President at his word):
WASHINGTON—Calling it an important contribution to a crucial national debate, officials speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed President Obama's September 9 address on health care reform, particularly his statements regarding abortion and the uninsured.
"We agree that 'no one should go broke because they get sick,'" said Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB. "That's why the U.S. Bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all. The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system, and has a long tradition of teaching on ethics in health care. Health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority. We welcome the President's speech as an important contribution to this essential national debate and task."
"We especially welcome the President's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care," said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB. "We believe that incorporating essential and longstanding federal laws on these issues into any new proposal will strengthen support for health care reform. We will work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that these protections are clearly reflected in new legislation, so no one is required to pay for or take part in abortion as a result of health care reform."
"We agree with the President that there are details that need to be ironed out," said Saile. "And with his address last night, we see the opportunity to work towards a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity, access for all with a special concern for the poor, and inclusion of legal immigrants. We also see the possibility of meeting the bishops' goal to pursue the common good and preserve pluralism, including freedom of conscience and a variety of options, and restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers."