Richard Doerflinger, secretariat of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA on March 19 that the regulation presents â€œnothing newâ€ but merely repeats what the health care law said from the beginning.
â€œIf people are surprised, that is because they believed false and misleading accounts of the Act two years ago, instead of the accurate descriptions by the bishopsâ€™ conference and other groups,â€ Doerflinger said.
He explained that the funding of abortion was among the bishopsâ€™ reasons for opposing the final law, despite their â€œlongstanding support for health care reform.â€
On March 12, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a final rule on the implementation of the state exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Included in the regulation is a provision regulating involuntary funding of insurance plans that cover elective abortions.
During debates over the health care overhaul, President Barack Obama promised that federal money would not be used to fund abortion under the legislation. Under pressure from legislators who threatened to vote against the bill, he signed a March 2010 executive order repeating this promise.
However, critics say that the administration has now implemented an accounting gimmick in order to provide funding for abortion in the form of a mandatory insurance premium rather than a tax payment.
Doerflinger said that although many private health plans currently cover abortion, there will be several significant changes under the new law.
First, he said, plans that choose to cover abortion will now receive federal tax subsidies, forcing all taxpayers to contribute to them.
This new policy is contrary to that put in place by the Hyde amendment, as well as every other major federal program that prohibited tax money from subsidizing abortions, he noted. [More]