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AUL’s Statement in Response to President Obama’s Address

Washington, DC – In his address to a Joint Session of Congress this evening, President Obama repeated his claim that “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.”  However, he failed to commit to supporting language that explicitly prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion.

AUL’s President and CEO, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, expressed disappointment in the President’s address, stating, “President Obama has previously articulated a desire to see a decrease in the number of abortions performed in the United States. Yet he is throwing his support behind legislation that will equate abortion with basic health care.” Dr. Yoest further explained that “Americans understand that abortion is not health care, and that the women and unborn children in our country deserve better.”

AUL’s Staff Counsel, Mary Harned, said, “No matter how President Obama and Congress change the structure of the health care reform proposals — whether there is a public option, co-op, exchange, or the like — any legislation that provides government funding for health care must contain explicit language that excludes abortion. Abortion is not health care; however, based on how courts have interpreted Medicaid, we know that courts will interpret any legislation relating to government-funded health care as requiring abortion coverage unless there is an explicit prohibition (like Hyde).”

In their legal memoranda, AUL’s legal team has carefully explained how existing law will not prevent the health care bills from mandating taxpayer funding of abortion. They also documented how seven circuit courts have held that abortion is covered under Medicaid, necessitating an explicit prohibition on the inclusion of abortion. Dr. Yoest stated that “courts will certainly interpret any legislation that provides federal funding for health care as they have interpreted Medicaid in the past. So, any health care reform must include an explicit prohibition on abortion funding and coverage.”

Current proposals mandate abortion coverage and funding in a number of ways, including:

  1. An amendment to H.R. 3200 permits and may require abortion coverage in the public health insurance plan, and permits taxpayer funding of private plans that cover elective abortion through the provision of affordability credits
  2. The Senate HELP bill delegates to a “Medical Advisory Committee” the role of deciding what benefits any private or public health care plan must offer. This Committee is expected to include abortion as a required minimum benefit.
  3. Prior court holdings that state that abortion is included within several of Medicaid’s mandatory categories of care (inpatient services, outpatient services, and preventative care) will certainly apply to any federal statute revising Medicaid and involving health care reform.
  4. The rejection of several key pro-life amendments in the House and Senate Committees, which would have ensured that abortion was not funded in the bills, demonstrates that the bills are intended to mandate abortion.

About Americans United for Life

Americans United for Life (AUL) is a nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization whose vision is a nation in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.  The first national pro-life organization in America, AUL has been committed to defending human life through vigorous judicial, legislative, and educational efforts at both the federal and state levels since 1971.  The Wall Street Journal has profiled AUL, and PBS’ Frontline program chronicled AUL’s successful efforts in Mississippi.

Media Contact

Heather Smith