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Operation Rescue offers ammunition to House GOP trying to pass anti-abortion insurance bill

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Microphone80thumb_2008.jpg

UPDATED: 2:50 p.m. EST, with clarification*

Anti-abortion-rights group Operation Rescue has released its most recent undercover look at the American abortion industry, using excerpted audio recordings to show “millions of tax dollars are already paying for abortions each year.” Operation Rescue released a summary of its findings on Wednesday, the day before the U.S. House of Representatives is due to vote on House Resolution 358, or the “Protect Life Act,” which would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from going toward any health care plan that also covers abortion services. (Under current law, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services, and plans that cover abortion must segregate federal funding from abortion services.*)

In conjunction with Albuquerque, N.M.-based anti-abortion-rights group Project Defending Life, Operation Rescue’s team claims to have called abortion clinics in 12 states and learned that Medicaid — using state taxpayer funds, not federal taxpayer funds — would pay for abortions in each case, despite the fact that the hypothetical pregnancies described by the callers were not the result of rape or incest or deemed to be potentially fatal. New Mexico is among several states that allow Medicaid funds to pay for abortions in cases beyond those specified in the Hyde Amendment, which affects only the federal spending portion of the state-federal joint program.*

The group released the audio recordings from several of these conversations including one with the Southern Women’s Options clinic in Albuquerque, where the receptionist told (PDF) the caller certain Medicaid coverage would likely cover her abortion at 26 weeks of gestation, amounting to approximately $8,000 to $9,000. In the recording, the caller explains there is nothing physically wrong with her pregnancy but that she and her husband just changed their mind because he lost his job.

“It’s shocking that our tax dollars would pay $9,000 for a third-trimester abortion simply because of a lost job,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman in a statement. “The vast majority of the American people strongly object to their tax money being used in this way.”

As the Kaiser Family Foundation explains, the federal Hyde Amendment, passed in 1977, prohibits states from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or the mother’s life is at risk; however, states can use their own funds to cover other “medically necessary” abortions for Medicaid recipients, usually defined by states as those “to protect the physical or mental health of the woman.” The goal of the Protect Life Act, which is expected to pass in the House but not receive a vote in the Senate, is to steer funds away from insurance plans that cover abortion services, making it more difficult for women to afford abortions. The White House released a veto threat (PDF) against the bill Wednesday:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because … the legislation intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today. Longstanding Federal policy prohibits Federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered. The Affordable Care Act preserved this prohibition and included policies to ensure that Federal funding is segregated from any private dollars used to fund abortions for which Federal funding is prohibited. The President’s Executive Order 13535 reinforces that Federal funding cannot be used for abortions (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and ensures proper enforcement of this policy.

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