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Hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - "H.R.__, the Protect Life Act of 2011"


Location: Unknown

Thank you Mr. Chairman, the Discussion Draft before us closely tracks the Stupak-Pitts amendment that the House adopted by a strong bipartisan majority during the 111th Congress. This includes the Hyde amendment language that has continuously been adopted by Congress since 1993.

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. Additionally, this bill protects the right of conscience for health care professionals and ensures that private insurance companies are not forced to cover abortion.

The so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) establishes "allocation accounts" to segregate federal funds from premium funds that can be used for abortion coverage. Under this system, the plan issuer is required to collect the enrollee's portion of the premium in two payments. One payment goes into an account for abortion coverage -- this payment is appropriately described as an abortion surcharge -- and the other payment goes into an account for all other coverage.

PPACA includes a provision requiring the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that one multi-State plan does not cover elective abortion. However, this permits the Director to offer additional multi-State plans that do cover abortion. Individuals who prefer the overall coverage in a plan that covers elective abortion must write a check to pay the abortion surcharge in order to choose that plan. Individuals who have strong moral objections to abortion are thereby forced to directly finance abortion coverage in order to purchase a health care plan they believe best provides for their needs and the needs of their family members. This is wrong and the legislation proposed by Mr. Pitts corrects this injustice.

It's important to keep in mind that PPACA contains a definition of services that hinges on the Hyde amendment being retained each year through the appropriations process. This leaves the door open for the Hyde limitations to be dropped by a determined majority in one chamber of Congress or by a presidential veto. Mr. Pitts, by contrast, provides greater certainty that the Hyde limitations will continue to apply to PPACA.

In order to secure the votes of a group of Members who had previously voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment, the President promised to issue an Executive Order to address their concerns about abortion funding. While I believe that the Executive Order is seriously flawed by comparison to the provisions that were contained in Stupak-Pitts and which are included in the legislation proposed today by Mr. Pitts, we should also recognize that Executive Orders can disappear as quickly as they first appear. A sitting president can change his mind, a future president can have a different opinion, or opponents of the Executive Order can prevail in court by arguing that certain elements of the Executive Order do not have a sufficient legislative foundation to survive. So even if one believes that the Executive Order does everything he or she would want it to do, it makes sense to vote for this legislation in order to provide greater certainty and permanence.

The Catholic Health Association (CHA), which supported passage of PPACA, has expressed their support for the Pitts legislation. In a January 24th letter to Congressman Pitts, CHA President and CEO Sister Carol Keehan said she applauds his "efforts to ensure the protection of the unborn and of providers' conscience rights." She expressed support for "codifying the "Hyde amendment' relative to the new health care reform law," and went on to say, "We also appreciate the bill's additions to the conscience protections which hospitals and health care providers already have under the Weldon Amendment."

Those of us who support the Hyde amendment are encouraged by the fact that its enactment has contributed to a reduction in the number of abortions and saved the lives of thousands of unborn children. A clear majority of Americans share our view that taxpayers' dollars should not be used to pay for elective abortions. President Obama, among others, says that he wants to make abortion "rare." Let's find common ground on this legislation by acknowledging that abortion is not health care and conscientiously opposed taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize abortion.

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