Communications Department

Obama-backed health care bills threaten biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade

Jul 20, 2009 | 2009 Press Releases

“Abortion policy is emerging as a major issue on health care restructuring legislation, as the public is awakening to the Obama Administration’s attempt to smuggle into law the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.”
-Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) Legislative Director

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2009) —  A report in today’s New York Times (“Health Bill Might Direct Tax Money to Abortion,” by Robert Pear and Adam Liptak) puts a spotlight on the Obama Administration’s attempts to secure sweeping abortion coverage mandates and abortion subsidies in the health care bills currently under consideration in the Congress.

Referring to Senator Kennedy’s unnumbered bill, which was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on July 15, and to the House Democratic Leadership’s “tri-committee” bill (H.R. 3200), Johnson said, “These bills would result in federally mandated coverage of abortion by nearly all health plans, federally mandated recruitment of abortionists by local health networks, and nullification of many state abortion laws.  They would also result in federal subsidies for abortion on a massive scale.”

An NRLC analysis of H.R. 3200 explains in detail why general provisions such as those contained in the two bills will invariably be construed, by administrators and by the federal courts, to require coverage of elective abortion, unless Congress explicitly excludes abortion.

The NRLC analysis also explains why the “Hyde Amendment,” a year-to-year patch on the federal Health and Human Services appropriations bill, would not prevent massive federal subsidies for elective abortions under H.R. 3200 or the Kennedy bill.

The NRLC analysis and other key documents on the issue are posted on the NRLC website at

Some journalists have written casually that the bills “do not mention” abortion.  Johnson said, “The bills don’t mention cardiac bypass operations or cataract extractions, either, but those procedures will be mandated as essential services, and so will elective abortion, unless Congress explicitly excludes abortion from the bills.”

Leaders of major pro-abortion advocacy groups have made many public statements in recent months recognizing that the bills, as currently drafted, will result in vast expansions of “access” to elective abortion. 

For example, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the nation’s largest abortion provider, told National Public Radio that her organization saw the legislation as a “platform” to extend “access” to abortion to “all women.”  The president of NARAL said, “I am very optimistic about reproductive health care being part of this entire package.”  The president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice wrote, “Let there be no mistake, basic healthcare includes abortion services.”

NRLC-backed amendments to exclude elective abortion from the scope of federal “essential benefits” mandates, and to prevent federal funding of elective abortions, have already been rejected by three congressional committees (Senate HELP, House Ways and Means, and House Education and Labor).  Some Democrats joined Republicans on the panels in supporting the amendments, but a sufficient number of Democrats opposed the amendments to defeat them. 

This week, Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mi.) will offer similar amendments during mark up sessions in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Twenty House Democrats have written to Speaker Pelosi to say that they cannot support a bill unless it “explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.”

Members of the Senate Finance Committee are negotiating behind closed doors to craft an alternative health care bill, and abortion policy is also an issue in those discussions.  According to a July 14 report on a spokesperson for the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said that Grassley “is opposed to mandating abortion coverage in health care legislation.”

Today’s New York Times piece quotes Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, as saying as recently as April, “Most private plans do not cover abortion services except in limited instances, but do cover family planning.  And Congress has limited the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan to covering abortion services only in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.”

NRLC’s Johnson and Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett are available for interviews regarding the abortion mandates and abortion subsidies in the pending health care bills.

The National Right to Life Committee is the nation’s largest pro-life group is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide.  National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide.