Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
[UPDATE 11/1: NPR confirmed today that state health exchanges do not provide informaiton about whether specific plans cover elective abortions. While PBR suggests that both pro-life and pro-choice Americans might want to know whether a prosepctive plan offers that coverage, it also notes that abortion rights advocates have opposed a proposed bill requiring clear notification. The reason for their opposition? It might "stigmatize" particular plans.The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has also endorsed Congressman Smith's proposed legislation to require information about whehter a plan covers elective abortions.]
During a House Energy and Commerce hearing today, Oct. 30, Congressman John Shimkus, R-Ill., told HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that his pro-life constituents were unable to identify which plans in the state health exchanges did not include abortion. Shimkus asked Sebelius if the plans could be plainly identified, and he said his committee wanted a list of helath insurance plans that did not jprovide abortion benefits. Sebelius responded that she did not "know" the answer, but that she would provide a response to the congressman at a later date. Catch the exchange here.
Of course, during the original, fractious congressional debate over the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a number of pro-life Democrat congressmen were promised that the new entitlement would not cover subsidized elective abortions, and President Obama issued an executive order to that effect--a move some pro-life Democrats cited as justification for their 11th-hour decision to vote for Obamacare.
Congressman Chris Smith, R-NJ. issued a statement following Sebelius' testimony:
It is an outrage—it doesn’t pass the straight face test and it’s just not believable—that at this stage Sebelius cannot, or will not, tell consumers how to find out whether the plans they are considering include abortions that painfully dismember or chemically poison unborn children.
Today, when my colleague, Rep. John Shimkus confronted Secretary Sebelius about this lack of transparency and asked her to commit to making clear whether a plan includes abortion coverage or not, Sebelius said she didn’t know, but will check. Seriously?
The Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser pointed out the exchange between Sebelius and Shimcus, and called on prolifers to press for the passage of proposed legislation that would provide transparency on which health plans offered on state exchanges actually do include coverage of abortion.Said Dannenfelser,
HHS failure to address the abortion coverage transparency issue in Obamacare is unacceptable. We urge Congress to pass the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (H.R. 3279), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) earlier this month, to address this problem.
She also recalled the executive order issued by President Obama that was supposed to bar federal subsidies of election abortions under the ACA:
It is no surprise that that promise has not been kept. We know that, as it stands, as many as 111,500 additional abortions per year are estimated to be funded in the system. There is no way an executive order could ever have fixed the fundamental funding mechanism flaws. But Americans may be surprised – and they will be appalled. As the ACA is implemented, it continues to be exposed as a massive expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion and some of those
Members of Congress who were the lynchpins to its passage now publicly lament voting for it. Obamacare and its abortion funding problems cost former Representatives like Bart Stupak, Kathy Dahlkemper, and Steve Driehaus their jobs in the 2010 midterms.
Here is a post on National Review outlining the Charlotte Lozier Institute's report on the lack of transperancy regarding abortion on the state exchanges..
At today's congressional hearing, Sebelius also accepted responsibilty for the problems that have plagued the rolllout of the government website designed for individuals to review health plans and enroll online. Video highlights of the rest of her testimony can be found here.
Where does this leave Sebelius, a self-identified Catholic politician, who is a commited abortion-rights supporter and was denied communion by her bishop in Kansas City? Well, the Washington Post reported yesterday that the failure of the Obamacare website, combined with growing public anxiety about the mass cancellation of individual healthplans across the nation, could accelerate Sebelius' departure from her post at HHS.