WASHINGTON — Pro-life leaders are calling for transparency in the health-care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, asking that they include an open acknowledgement of whether each individual plan funds abortion.

“Abortions are covered” under the health-care law, and “taxpayers are going to be funding it,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, at an Oct. 31 rally in front of the U.S. Capitol.

“But what’s really interesting is the secretary [of Health and Human Services] herself wrote a memo this April demanding that all insurance providers cover Planned Parenthood and their services in the health-insurance exchanges,” she said.

Participants in the demonstration, hosted by Students for Life of America and the Christian Defense Coalition, protested against new regulations governing health-care plans, including those offered on the exchanges.

Established under the Affordable Care Act, the exchanges opened Oct. 1 and allow individuals to compare and purchase different health-care plans, even across state lines.

However, although the Obama administration had assured citizens during deliberations over the law that the ACA would not fund abortions, some of the federally funded exchange plans include a mandatory monthly abortion surcharge.

This inclusion has been controversial and drawn criticism from pro-life groups. The U.S. bishops, although they had long advocated for health reform, ultimately declined to support the ACA, due to concerns over abortion funding and conscience rights.

Pro-life advocates have also criticized the exchanges for the lack of information available to consumers about exactly which plans include the abortion-funding charge.

Asked during an Oct. 30 hearing whether she could guarantee that abortion funding would be clearly labeled in health plans in which it is included, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius replied, “I don’t know.”

Those at Thursday's protest demanded that Congress stop funding Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion vendor. They highlighted that the organization will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money when key parts of the Affordable Care Act go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

In honor of the 915 unborn babies aborted by Planned Parenthood every day, 915 pink crosses were placed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol before and after the demonstration.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, described Sebelius’ inability to answer the question about abortion funding as “just not believable.”

“It is an outrage,” Smith said, “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.”

“Why are they hiding?” he asked.

“Any detailed review reveals that it is virtually impossible for consumers looking at exchange plans to identify which, if any, of the Obamacare exchange plans on their state exchange include or exclude abortion,” Smith said.

Last month, Smith unveiled proposed legislation to require full disclosure of abortion coverage for every plan offered on an exchange under the new health-care law.

“This is a right-to-know bill,” he said at the time of the bill’s introduction. “Even the most ardent advocate of abortion should embrace full disclosure.”

“Americans buying their insurance through the new health-care exchanges shouldn't have to spend hours trying to figure out if the money they pay for premiums will be spent to provide abortions,” added Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill, also co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

He said, “This bill will give the American people the transparency they need to make informed decisions that are in line with their religious and moral beliefs.”