Anti-abortion groups push for stronger 'pro-life' restrictions in ObamaCare funding bill

Anti-abortion groups push for stronger 'pro-life' restrictions in ObamaCare funding bill
© Getty

Anti-abortion groups are sounding the alarm over an ObamaCare funding bill, urging lawmakers to vote against it because they say it doesn't contain "pro-life" protections. 

A bill sponsored by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges Rick Perry says Trump is the 'chosen one' sent 'to do great things' Impeachment will make some Senate Republicans squirm MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Senate panel approves Trump FDA pick | Biden downplays Dem enthusiasm around 'Medicare for All' | Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured Trump's FDA nominee approved by Senate panel MORE (D-Wash.) would fund the key ObamaCare insurer payments called cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles and copays to low-income patients. 

But influential anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) say the bill shouldn't be passed unless it is amended to stipulate that the funding can't go toward plans that cover abortion. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Such restrictions already exist in Medicaid and other programs under the Department of Health and Human Services through the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, with some exceptions. 

"Any member voting for the Alexander-Murray proposal, or other ObamaCare stabilization legislation not covered by the Hyde amendment, would not only be voting to sustain what many have called the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade, but would also be voting to directly appropriate taxpayer dollars for insurance that includes abortion," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, wrote in a letter to members of Congress this week. 

The Affordable Care Act says that CSRs can't be used for plans that cover abortions, but pro-life groups have long argued that the language isn't sufficient.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE has said he supports passing the Alexander-Murray bill before the end of the year. He made the promise to Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities MORE (R-Maine), who asked for its passage in exchange for her vote on the GOP's tax bill. 

Collins has said she expects Alexander-Murray to be attached to the year-end spending deal.  

ADVERTISEMENT

But there's concern that the Senate will try to jam the House with the spending bill, and with it, the Alexander-Murray bill with no "pro-life" protections. 

That could pose a problem because Republicans are facing increased pressure from anti-abortion groups. 

"Simply put, it is a stone-cold non-starter without the Hyde language as all conservatives will feel pressure to oppose," said a House GOP Appropriations aide.

"Leadership might be able to peel off some opposition by adding the language." 

NRLC went a step further and said Hyde protections must be added to a reinsurance bill sponsored by Collins and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Fla.) 

ADVERTISEMENT

NRLC warns that votes for Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson, or any appropriations measure that contains the bills, will be included in its scorecard of key "right-to-life" votes of the 115th Congress. 

"We strongly urge Congress not to continue this unprotected appropriation of money to prop up plans that cover abortion," the group wrote in a letter to lawmakers. 

"NRLC respectfully urges you to vote to reject the Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson proposals unless they are amended to exclude payments to cover abortion on demand." 

The Family Research Council also said it would score against the spending deal if Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson weren't amended to include the funding restrictions. 

They note that a similar bill introduced earlier this year from Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (R-Utah) and Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm MORE (R-Texas) would fund the CSRs "while also providing Hyde-like pro-life protections that restrict these funds from being used to subsidize plans that cover elective abortion."