Anti-abortion advocates come out against Medicare for All

By | May 14, 2019

More than 50 anti-abortion organizations on Tuesday urged Congress not to support any healthcare bills unless they include language banning federal funding for most abortions.

The anti-abortion organizations, in a letter sent to House members, mainly objected to the Medicare for All Act, the bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would enroll everyone living in the U.S. into a government plan and that would require the government to pay for abortions. The groups also oppose a bill to shore up Obamacare because it doesn’t contain the Hyde Amendment, a provision that bans federal funding of abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or if a woman’s pregnancy threatens her life.

“We are strongly opposed to any legislation that covers elective abortion in healthcare and urge you to oppose such bills unless amended so that such funds cannot be used for plans that include abortion,” wrote the groups, which include the Susan B. Anthony List, Live Action, the Family Research Council, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Medicare for All Act says that the government must pay for “comprehensive reproductive … care,” which Democrats have said would include coverage for abortion and which anti-abortion groups wrote in their letter constituted “abortion on demand.”

It’s not clear that the letter will make a difference in the level of support among House members, because no Republican supports the healthcare bills and few Democrats in Congress self-identify as “pro-life.” Negotiations over a bipartisan stabilization bill collapsed in 2018 when Republicans added language to the bill to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., blocked the bill from advancing, saying that the language was a “poison pill” for Democrats.

Spending bills since 1976 have included the Hyde Amendment rider, but the fact that it is not part of Obamacare has long been a sticking point for anti-abortion advocates. The issue of abortion almost torpedoed the law’s passage, as there were more Democrats in the House at the time who opposed abortion rights. During negotiations in 2010, Democrats passed Obamacare by reaching an agreement that let states opt out of abortion coverage if they choose, and former President Barack Obama signed an executive order saying the Hyde Amendment was still in effect.

Some states, including California, mandate that all health insurance plans cover abortions, while other states have strict limits on abortion funding. The Trump administration is weighing a proposal that would make insurers send two separate bills to customers — one for overall premiums and the other for abortion coverage — a move supporters say would bring it more in line with what Congress intended with the passage of Obamacare.

Democrats have left the Hyde Amendment in the spending bill that is making its way through the House, but a group of Democratic lawmakers, as well as the 2016 Democratic platform, back full repeal of the amendment, saying that the language disenfranchises poor women who want an abortion.