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Cardinal O’Malley: Congress must remedy taxpayer abortion funding

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Cardinal Seán O'Malley and Cardinal Marc Oullet are seen at the Ecclesia in America Conference Dec 12, 2012. Cardinal O'Malley has spoken out about federal funding for abortion in the new healthcare law. (CNA Photo/Alan Holdren)
Cardinal Seán O'Malley and Cardinal Marc Oullet are seen at the Ecclesia in America Conference Dec 12, 2012. Cardinal O'Malley has spoken out about federal funding for abortion in the new healthcare law. (CNA Photo/Alan Holdren)

By Adelaide Mena & Matt Hadro Catholic News Agency 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee has renewed a call for Congressional action after a new report verified the bishops’ repeated warnings of taxpayer-funded abortion in the Affordable Care Act.

“This report confirms the U.S. bishops’ longstanding concern about abortion coverage that we raised both before and after enactment of the Affordable Care Act by Congress,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

In a Sept. 16 statement, Cardinal O’Malley responded to a report by an independent government watchdog detailing how abortions are covered by most subsidized health plans offered under the health care law, despite promises to the contrary by President Barack Obama.

The report by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, released Monday night, revealed abortion coverage present in more than 1,000 qualified health plans in the insurance exchanges created under the law. In addition, mechanisms set up under the law to separate abortion coverage from public funding were not being enforced, the report found.

President Obama had promised in an executive order that no federal funding would go to abortions covered in the law’s health insurance exchanges. The action was meant to quell concerns of a dozen pro-life Democrats who supported the law but opposed any federal funding of abortion. Those congressmen were the last votes needed to pass the law through the House.

The bishops, however, were among pro-life advocates who had warned that the order carried no legal weight since it was not part of the legislation itself and appellate courts had repeatedly required that federal health care laws include abortion funding.

“Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation,” the bishops said at the time.

Now that these fears have been confirmed, Cardinal O’Malley urged Congress to take renewed action to separate abortion coverage from the rest of the subsidized health plans.

“The only adequate solution to this problem is the one the Catholic bishops advocated from the beginning of the health care reform debate in Congress: Bring the Affordable Care Act into compliance with the Hyde amendment and every other federal law on abortion funding, by excluding elective abortions from health plans subsidized with federal funds,” he stated.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress have attempted to pass legislation that would preserve the Hyde Amendment’s ban on abortion funding under the Affordable Care Act.

Congressional Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) along with 163 other members of Congress co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would exclude insurance plans covering abortion procedures from receiving federal tax funds.

Although the bishops have called for health care reform in the U.S. for decades, concerns including abortion funding and conscience rights ultimately prevented them from supporting the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

During deliberations over the law, they warned that without provisions to preserve the ban on federal abortion funding required by the existing Hyde Amendment, the legislation would likely require American citizens to pay for others’ abortion procedures.

In November 2013, an analysis by the bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities pointed to a 2012 Obama administration mandate requiring many insurers to charge all enrollees for elective abortions.

The bishops’ conference pointed out that through this rule, taxpayers were not only being forced to subsidize insurance plans that cover elective abortions, but individuals were also being forced to help directly pay for other people’s abortion procedures.

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