US bishops welcome HHS statement on abortion coverage, express grave concern

07 16 2010 Dinardo Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that declared federal funds will not be used to cover elective abortions in the new high-risk insurance pools that are beginning to be implemented in some states. At the same time, he said that the U.S. bishops were “gravely concerned” that some states had  planned to cover elective abortions with federal money.

Earlier this week, New Mexico and Pennsylvania rolled out Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) programs which drew on federal funds to subsidize insurance plans for those who did not have insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

Cardinal DiNardo explained in his statement that the program introduced in Pennsylvania, “while purporting not to fund ‘elective’ abortions, made clear in its text that all abortions that satisfy the requirements of certain Pennsylvania statutes (i.e., all abortions that are not illegal in that state) would be covered, and reimbursed, with a combination of private premiums and federal funds drawn from the U.S. Treasury.”

The New Mexico program stated in its original plan that it would cover elective abortions. Critics alleged that the plans demonstrated the duplicity of those who supported the health care bill and the uselessness of Obama’s executive order, which said that besides the exceptions outlined by the Hyde Amendment, the federal government would not fund abortions in community health centers or insurance exchanges.

Following media inquiries and a public outcry from pro-life activists, New Mexico announced that it had changed the policy and would not cover elective abortions with its  PCIP Program.

On the evening of July 14, HHS also released a statement which declared that “in Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.” They also declared that their policy “is the same for both state and federally-run PCIP programs.”

Cardinal DiNardo welcomed the HHS statement, but said that the U.S. bishops were still “gravely concerned” because “it was not issued until after some states had announced that pro-abortion health plans were approved and had begun to enroll patients.”

The statement, which only applies to PCIPs, “illustrates once again the need for Congress to enact legislation clearly stating once and for all that funds appropriated by PPACA will not pay for abortions or for insurance coverage that includes abortion,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal DiNardo also explained that the legislation he is calling for would be similar to the Hyde Amendment and would ensure that “the issue of government involvement in the taking of innocent human life” would not fluctuate under the whim or “the changeable discretion of executive officials.” Nor would it “depend on the continued vigilance of pro-life advocates,” he pointed out.

He concluded by affirming the bishops’ support for health care coverage that meets Americans needs, respects their dignity, and does not destroy life. “It is vitally important for people with serious medical conditions who have been unable to obtain coverage to receive the help offered by programs such as this – and for them to be assured that their coverage will be life-affirming, not life-threatening.”

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