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Obamacare Would Make Public and Private Insurance Plans Cover Abortion

6:32 PM, Jul 20, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In July 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama told a group of Planned Parenthood activists that he would require coverage for abortion in both his public plan and in private insurance plans:

In my mind reproductive care is essential care. It is basic care, and so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose. … we're going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don't have health insurance. It'll be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services... We also will subsidize those who prefer to stay in the private insurance market except the insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care.

Contacted afterward by the Chicago Tribune, an Obama spokesman said that "reproductive services" included abortions. Now, Obama plans to follow through on this campaign promise without taking the political hit for this deeply unpopular proposal.

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Peter Orszag wouldn't say whether or not Obamacare would cover abortions. The New York Times follows up with a decent story today on the subject, noting that the debate about abortion coverage:

affects not only the public health insurance plan that Democrats want to create, but also private insurers, who would receive tens of billions of dollars of federal subsidies to cover people with low and moderate incomes.

Under the House bill, for example, most insurers would have to provide an 'essential benefits package' specified by the health and human services secretary, who would receive recommendations from a federal advisory committee. Opponents of abortion want Congress to prohibit inclusion of abortion in that benefits package, while advocates of abortion rights say the package should be left to medical professionals to determine.

Fat chance that the "medical professionals" selected by Obama and Kathleen Sebelius will prohibit funding for elective abortions. The Senate health committee passed the Mikulski amendment that requires insurance companies to contract with providers that include organizations like Planned Parenthood, and defeated Sen. Hatch's amendment to prohibit funding for abortions.

In this YouTube video, a House Ways and Means Committee staffer explains to Rep. Paul Ryan that the House bill would prohibit private insurance companies from signing up new customers outside of the federal government's health care "exchange". (See Tom Maguire for more on this subject.) So, inevitably, Obamacare would require both the public and private insurance companies to cover abortions.

But Obama and his administration are trying to do everything they can to obscure this fact. Asked at today's press briefing if Obama should support an amendment to prohibit abortion funding in order to achieve his oft-stated goal of reducing the number of abortions, Robert Gibbs said that "the President and this administration agree that that's -- a benefit package is better left to experts in the medical field to determine how best and what procedures to cover."

Why is President Obama no longer willing to say explicitly, as he did in 2007, that his plan should mandate abortion coverage? Does Obama really think it's possible to simultaneously subsidize abortions and reduce the incidence of abortion?