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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is There Anything New about the DHHS's Final Rule?


The pro-life media is incensed by a final rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, regarding the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) - or, as its detractors normally call it, "Obamacare". It is argued that the final rule:

“'...provides for taxpayer funding of insurance coverage that includes elective abortion' and the change to longstanding law prohibiting virtually all direct taxpayer funding of abortions (the Hyde Amendment) is accomplished through an accounting arrangement described in the Affordable Care Act and reiterated in the final rule issued today."

Is this claim correct? It appears that this government document is the source of the controversy. While 99.99% of this document is difficult to decipher, it clearly calls for the "segregation of funds for abortion services" (p. 627), and speaks of "abortions for which public funds are allowed" (p. 628). However, this particular document fails to specify which abortions are covered (someone please correct me if I'm mistaken). Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, concludes that "almost two years after [former congressman, Bart Stupak] agreed to an executive order "banning" abortion funding in ObamaCare, the President finally proved how useless it was."

Of course, the fact that PPACA funds abortion has long been understood (what may or may not be new is information on the specific manner in which abortion services are funded). Factcheck.org noted nearly two years ago that "the new law does not provide direct federal funding for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother" (emphasis added]. See, also, President Obama's Executive Order 13535, which similarly states that federal funds will be used in these exceptional circumstances.

So, PPACA does fund abortion (however much it pains me to agree with those who seem especially excited to blow my country of ancestry to smithereens). However, whether it broadens the circumstances in which public funding for abortion is permitted is another matter (again, I'm not yet quite sure). Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that it does not. In that case, whether or not PPACA constitutes a change to "long-standing law" depends on which version of the Hyde Amendment (a "rider" that is appended to annual appropriations bills) we're speaking of. For instance, while the original version permitted public funding for abortion only in cases where a mother's life was threatened, the circumstances in which funding was permissible expanded during the 1977-1979 fiscal period to include cases of rape and incest (only to be restricted, once again, to the life-of-the-mother exception).