Hyde Amendment does not apply to present health care bills, pro-life group says

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs


White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is erroneously claiming that the Hyde Amendment which restricts federal funding for abortions will apply to federal health care reform legislation, the National Right to Life Committee has charged.

At a Wednesday press briefing at the White House, Cybercast News Service  reporter Fred Lucas asked Gibbs whether a letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was right to say that health care reform proposals have not met the president’s promise to bar the use of federal funds for abortion.

“Well, I don't want to get me in trouble at church, but I would mention there's a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion that isn't going to be changed in these health care bills,” Gibbs responded.

Lucas noted several proposed amendments that would explicitly bar abortions, to which Gibbs replied:

“Again, there’s a fairly well documented federal law that prevents it.”

Commenting in a press release, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) called Gibbs’ statement “highly misleading.”

The NRLC, presuming that Gibbs referred to the Hyde Amendment, said the provision applies only to funds appropriated through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill.

“Neither the Hyde Amendment nor any other existing restriction will govern the provisions of the pending health care bills that are the focus of the abortion-related concerns,” the NRLC reported.

The proposed bills contain a nationwide government-run insurance program and premium subsidy programs to help tens of millions of Americans purchase health coverage.

None of the funds for the public plan and spent by the premium subsidy programs would be appropriated through the annual appropriations bill and would therefore be outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment. The NRLC said this analysis has been confirmed by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

According to the NRLC, under the Capps Amendment to H.R. 3200 the public plan would be explicitly authorized to cover elective abortions.

The NRLC described the suggestion that the public plan could pay for abortions with private funds as “a myth” and ‘a political hoax.”

“As a matter of law, all of the funds that would be spent by the public plan, on abortions and everything else, would be federal funds,” the pro-life group said. “In other words, the public plan would engage in direct federal funding of elective abortion.”

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