Obamacare: A Pro-Life Law?

Colette Wilson

In the frantic days leading up to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—otherwise known as Obamacare—pro-lifers were dismayed to see the defection of erstwhile allies whose last-minute support for the legislation pushed it over the top.

Not content with claiming that abortions cannot be funded under the new law—a claim refuted by both pro-life groups and congressional leaders (1)—these defectors also latched onto various provisions of the 2000+ page bill which they said were affirmatively pro-life.

They pointed, for example, to the extension of the adoption tax credit, which had been set to expire at the end of 2010. Under Obamacare, a moderately expanded credit is set to expire instead in 2011. Adoption proponents expected that this popular tax credit would be extended in some legislation sooner or later before it expired, so its inclusion in the health care bill can hardly be considered a huge victory. Very few legislators would oppose it no matter in what bill it showed up. Moreover, while the adoption tax credit is undoubtedly a worthy pro-child, pro-family policy, it has virtually nothing to do with decreasing abortions. Pro-lifers who assist abortion bound women in pregnancy care centers and on the sidewalks outside abortion clinics know that no girl or woman in America has an abortion because there isn’t anyone who can afford to adopt her child.

A second purportedly pro-life provision was $250 million in funding for abstinence-only education programs over five years. Such programs are unquestionably superior to Planned Parenthood-style propaganda and are an important tool in decreasing the teen pregnancy rate. However, the health care bill only provides these funds if they are first matched by state funds. Moreover, the bill also provides funding for “personal responsibility education” (i.e., Planned Parenthood-style sex education) according to a formula too Byzantine for this writer to decode. (2)

Finally, the bill also appropriates $50 million per year for school-based clinics (SBCs) to provide “age appropriate” comprehensive health care services to elementary and high school age children.

Although the bill prohibits these SBCs from providing abortions on site, there is no prohibition on their assisting students in obtaining abortions elsewhere, nor on providing students with contraceptives.

Unfortunately, parents frequently sign a general consent form for their children to receive services at SBCs, having in mind medical emergencies, not realizing that they are consenting to their child’s receiving “confidential medical services” such as birth control, pregnancy testing, and abortion assistance. The mother of a fifteen-year-old girl in Seattle recently learned this lesson too late to protect her daughter and grandchild. (3)

Thus, far from merely providing healthcare assistance for first-aid or urgent-care-type needs, SBCs might more accurately be viewed as free-contraceptives-dispensing, abortion referral centers, strategically located where the majority of U.S. teens could not not find them. This seems guaranteed to increase, not decrease, teen promiscuity and, inevitably, teen abortions.

Another “pro-life” provision of Obama care allocates $250 million over 10 years to the newly-created “Pregnancy Assistance Fund.” This money will be available in the form of grants to states that will in turn be awarded to universities, colleges, high schools and “community service centers” to “establish, maintain, or operate pregnant and parenting services” in the areas of insurance coverage, housing, child care, parenting education, material assistance (maternity and baby clothes, food, etc.), post-partum counseling, and assistance with continuing and completing education. The money may also be given to state attorneys general and local officials to improve services for pregnant and recently pregnant women who are the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The money may also be used to raise public awareness concerning the availability of all of these services.

It doesn’t take a math major to realize that, in terms of preventing abortions, $25 million per year, filtered through various centers, programs, and agencies, will have to be spread very thin to reach any appreciable number of the more than1.2 million women per year who have abortions. And that is assuming that the money could be aimed solely at women who would otherwise have abortions—which is impossible.

The amount appropriated for the Pregnancy Assistance Fund is dwarfed by the $11 billion appropriated in the healthcare bill for Community Health Centers (CHCs), with no restrictions on how the money may be used. These CHCs, of which there are currently 1,250 in operation around the country, are already being lobbied by the Reproductive Health Access Project to expand their services to include abortion.(4)

In a public statement lauding the passage of the health care bill, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards happily pointed to “the fact that the legislation … would significantly increase access to reproductive healthcare,” and noted that the bill would “expand family planning under Medicaid, which would significantly increase access to essential preventive health care for millions of women.”

Ms. Richards herself is trying to put a “pro-life” spin on the bill, by dangling before the public the promise that more money spent on “family planning” and “preventive” care, (i.e., birth control drugs and devices) will translate into fewer abortions. However, as professor Michael New and others have demonstrated, the research behind these claims is flawed and incomplete. (5) This research, frequently underwritten by friends of PP, also fails to take into account the negative social consequences of the government underwriting sexual promiscuity by providing contraceptives on demand to all comers.

Moreover, Ms. Richards’ use of the word “preventive” in the context of the “services” Planned Parenthood offers is carefully calculated. The health care bill grants ample authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius, friend of late-term abortionist George Tiller), if she so chooses, to place abortion on the list of “preventive” care services, thereby making abortion coverage mandatory in some state exchange plans. On closer examination, then, even the supposedly “pro-life” aspects of Obamacare are not calculated to reduce the numbers of abortions. On the contrary, the new law seems hell bent on driving the numbers ever higher, all at taxpayers’ expense. No wonder Cecile Richards was so pleased.

1. http://republicanleader.house.gov/blog/?p=690
2. For the brave of heart, see H.R. 3590, Sec. 513 (a)
3. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/teen-abortion-high-school/story?id=10189694
4. See http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCMemoCommHealth.html.
5. See, e.g., http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/06/1374