The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today concluded a legislative hearing on the "Protect Life Act." The legislation, authored by Subcommittee Chairman Pitts, prohibits federal funding of abortions and abortion coverage under the recently enacted health care law. The language is consistent with an amendment to the health care law adopted by the House in 2009, but excluded from the final law.
Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts said, "In his executive order, the president clearly endorsed the principle of no government funds going to abortion and--again--clearly endorsed the principle of not forcing healthcare professionals to act against the dictates of conscience. But an executive order is not law. It can be rescinded at any time by this or any future president. It can be overturned by a judge, or simply ignored. If we wish to respect the views of those who don't want their money used to finance abortion, if we wish to follow the wishes of the 60 to 70 percent of Americans who believe the government should not pay for the procedure--then Congress should send this bill to the President in short order."
"A clear majority of Americans share our view that taxpayers' dollars should not be used to pay for elective abortions," said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "Unfortunately, the massive health care plan that was ultimately enacted by Congress contains numerous loopholes that allow federal subsidies to be used to purchase plans that pay for abortions. This legislation proposed by Chairman Pitts amends the health bill to clearly prevent federal funding for abortion or abortion coverage through government exchanges, community health centers, or any other program funded or created by the new law."
Douglas Johnson, Federal Legislative Director for the National Right to Life Committee, testified "The PPACA as enacted contains multiple components under which federal subsidies for abortion are authorized, implicitly and even explicitly, and that predictably will result in such funding in the future -- unless the law itself is repealed, or unless the law is amended by enactment of the legislation that is the subject of this hearing, the Protect Life Act " Johnson continued, "Instead of the bill-wide language that would have permanently applied the Hyde Amendment principles to the new programs, we find a hodge-podge of artful exercises in misdirection, bookkeeping gimmicks, loopholes, ultra-narrow provisions that were designed to be ineffective, and/or provisions that are rigged to expire."
The legislation also protects the right of conscience for health care professionals and ensures that private insurance companies are not forced to cover abortion.
George Mason University School of Law Professor Helen Alvare specifically expressed her support for the bill's provisions to protect the right of conscience for health care professionals. Alvare testified, "The Protect Life Act is a both a necessary and a wise amendment to the Affordable Care Act on so many grounds. It helps preserve within our nation"s health care delivery system the valuable contributions made by conscience driven providers and institutions to the needs of the most vulnerable women and men. It indicates that abortion has not attained the status of a 'standard' of health care and it preserves in American law and culture the bedrock value of respect for religious and moral conscience."