Roundup: Abortion Once Again Debated At White House Healthcare Summit

Rachel Larris

Were you glued to your computer monitor yesterday watching the White House’s Healthcare Summit? If not you probably didn’t notice the glaring lack of women legislators invited. And naturally the issue of abortion was one of the many objections raised by Republicans in objection to the president's bill.

Were you glued to your computer monitor yesterday watching the White House’s Healthcare Summit? If not you probably didn’t notice the glaring lack of women legislators invited. Twenty-two invitees and only four women, one of whom happened to be the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Naturally the issue of abortion was one of the many objections Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner raised about the healthcare reform bill:

For 30 years, we’ve had a federal law that says that we’re not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We’ve had this debate in the House. It was a very serious debate.

But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions.

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This bill that we have before us, and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President, begins — for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer-funding of abortions.

So, Mr. President, what we’ve been saying for a long time is let’s scrap the bill. Let’s start with a clean sheet of paper on those things that we can agree with. Let’s take a step-by-step approach that’ll bring down the cost of health insurance in America, because if we bring down the cost of health insurance, we can expand access.

President Barack Obama didn’t address Boehner’s statement about abortion directly, since it was only one of the many different aspects of the president’s bill he said didn’t like. But Obama did say:

There are so many things that you just said that people on this side would profoundly disagree with — and I would have to say, you know, based on my analysis, just aren’t true — that I think that the conversation would start bogging down pretty quick.

So it was Nancy Pelosi in the closing remarks who took the time to correct the record that, once again, there is no public funding of abortion in the healthcare reform package.

I think it’s really important to note, though, and I want the record to show, because two statements were made here that are not factual in relationship to these bills.

My colleague, Mr. Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion, and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills. And I don’t want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said.

In Other News

The White House Healthcare Summit wasn’t the only legislative debate about abortion that happened yesterday. In Kentucky, after an hour-long hearing, a House committee killed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to get an ultrasound. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

A House committee Thursday killed a bill that would have required doctors providing abortions to perform an ultrasound before the procedure and offer the patient a chance to view the images of the fetus.

Senate Bill 38, which passed the Senate Jan. 25, failed in the Health and Welfare Committee on a 7-7 tie vote. It marked the fourth year the measure has passed the Senate but died in a House committee.

The bill also would have required a woman seeking an abortion to get face-to-face counseling at the clinic 24 hours in advance rather than by telephone, as the law now allows.

Meanwhile, up north in Alaska a judge is expected to rule next month on a ballot initiative requiring parental notification for abortion. The Anchorage Daily News reports:

An Anchorage Superior Court judge is expected to have a decision within a month on the wording of an abortion initiative targeted for the August ballot.

The measure would require doctors to notify a parent before a girl under 18 could have an abortion.

The Anchorage Daily News reports lawyers presented arguments Wednesday over whether the initiative is clear about penalties doctors would face.

Attorney Jeff Feldman, representing Planned Parenthood of Alaska, argued the initiative fails to make clear to voters it could land doctors in jail for five years if they don’t track down a parent, verify their identification and personally tell them of the procedure.

Bonus item: The Washington Post has a profile of the lengths one doctor has to go to provide abortion care for women in South Dakota.

February 26, 2010

The Summit Sideshow Wall Street Journal

Obama dismisses pro-life concerns about health care reform Catholic Culture

Let’s call ’emergency contraception’ what it really is The Tidings

DOH chief: We’ve no money for pills, condoms ABS CBN News

Dramatic fall in teen pregnancy Swindon Advertiser

February 25, 2010

Bishops and Pawns Huffington Post

Blue skies, but no smooth sailing Boston Globe

Pregnancy Care Center in Aurora to close March 31 News-Leader.com

First-time fornicators should focus on foreplay Daily Cardinal

Tucson offers sex health variety Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bird hormone leads to new forms of birth control 13abc.com

Kentucky’s GOP Senate candidate spar over who is more pro-life MiamiHerald.com

Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson Leaves Pro-Life Group After 33 Years LifeNews.com

Pro-Life Group Says Campaign to Stop Abortion After George Tiller is Successful LifeNews.com

Pro-life leaders say Pelosi lied, again, on federal abortion funding Washington Examiner

Pro-Life Movie Sarah’s Choice Makes Television Debut Saturday on TBN LifeNews.com

Faith schools must teach sex and contraception Jewish Chronicle

Smart Girls Guide to Spring Break Huffington Post

He Stood Up to the World; Britain’s Sex Ed Fight Catholic.net

Rep. Van Zant introduces bill to ban abortions in state Ocala

A child herself, she awoke after abortion to a sight of horror Philadelphia Inquirer

Abortion language could cost health care vote; Dahlkemper cool to Senate version Sharon Herald

Spain’s Parliament Passes Law Expanding Abortion, No Parental Consent for Teens LifeNews.com

Anti-abortion group: Planned Parenthood lied about girl Madison.com

Angie Jackson Live-Tweets Her Abortion ABC News

Alaska abortion initiative wording debated Anchorage Daily News

Abortion hearing adds metal… Omaha World-Herald

Abortion-Related Bill Defeated WJTV

Minnesota abortion provider helps meet need in South Dakota Washington Post

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Faces Abortion Lecture at Congressional Hearing LifeNews.com

Proposed Bill Would Outlaw Most Abortions After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy ABC News

Obama Challenged on Abortion in Health Care at Summit, but Dismisses Subject Lifesite

House panel kills abortion ultrasound bill Louisville Courier-Journal

Archbishop Dolan: No honors for pro-abortion Catholic politicians Catholic Culture

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.