Even though pro-choice activists are saying Obama "threw women's reproductive rights under the bus" in his health-care speech, anti-choicers are still convinced that health-care reform would create "a huge abortion program run by the federal government."
Confusingly, Chris Frates of Politico says, "legislation making its way through Congress would allow a government-run insurance plan to cover abortions, and that sets the stage for conservatives to launch what is likely to be the next big, cable-ready fight in the health care debate." He also quotes a Factcheck.org report that says Obama "goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions ‘fabrications.'" But in fact there's already a plan in place to keep the government from funding abortions. A proposal by Rep. Lois Capps, recently passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would require that only private money pay for abortions. Robin Abcarian of the LA Times explains,
Under any insurance purchased with federal help, individuals would pay the portion of premiums used for abortion services. Federal money, in theory, would not pay for the procedure.
How? Separate accounts would be created to keep federal dollars from co-mingling with an individual's contributions. So, in essence, federal dollars would not support abortions, even if they pay for other health coverage.
It's not totally clear if this means that individuals would have to pay the full cost of their abortions, or if abortions would be covered by a pool of private money. If the latter, would anti-choicers be able to refuse to pay into the pool? Regardless of these concerns, the proposal and Obama's general stance that "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions" is conservative enough that reproductive rights advocates aren't happy. Egalia of Tennessee Guerrilla Women writes,
In his speech on health care reform, President Obama effectively threw women's reproductive rights under the bus when he indicated his support for the Hyde Amendment. That 1976 law forbids women from accessing their legal right to abortion through Medicaid and all other federally funded programs
And Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights says, "It is lamentable that during a major speech on healthcare reform, the President chose to reinforce a longstanding barrier to women's ability to obtain abortion." Of Capps's compromise proposal, she says,
The Capps Amendment — which means that no federal monies will be used for abortion, but does secure access to the service—is a defensive move primarily intended to ward off hostile Congressional amendments to women's abortion coverage. The amendment still segregates abortion from the larger field of healthcare, and should not be mistaken as sound policy. After healthcare reform is enacted, we look forward to a forthright dialogue that puts women's healthcare needs above politics.
That last sentence may signal a willingness to support health care reform even if it doesn't perfectly jibe with Northup's views on abortion. This willingness sets Northup and the Center for Reproductive Rights apart from anti-choicers like the National Right to Life Committee. Its legislative director Douglas Johnson calls the Capps proposal a "phony compromise" and says, "We think there is a very active effort to muddy the waters and to put out disinformation, and regrettably, the president has been part of that." Johnson also said,
This is going to be a real important issue in the weeks ahead. By the time they try to bring a bill to the floor of the House, anybody who's paying attention is going to know that this bill creates a huge abortion program run by the federal government.
Given that the health-care reform bills are still in progress, it's a rather odd statement. It sure sounds like Johnson's saying that his group is going to make sure "anybody who's paying attention" knows that the bill "creates a huge abortion program" regardless of what the bill says. There's no mention of working with the administration to produce an abortion-neutral solution (as anti-abortion health-care reform advocate Jim Wallis is doing). Johnson's mobilizing his supporters to block the bill before they are even sure of its final form. Both sides of this debate are talking about "common ground" — but it seems like one side is a lot more open to compromise.
Abortion Foes Aren't Buying Obama's Assurances [LA Times]
Abortion Rights In Hillary's 1993 Public Plan, But NOT In Obama's 2009 Plan [Tennessee Guerrilla Women]
Abortion Funding Next Big Showdown? [Politico]
President Obama Regrettably Closes Door On Conversation About Abortion Access In Healthcare Debate [Center for Reproductive Rights]