The debate over whether the new federally-funded high risk pool programs will allow funding for member’s elective abortions continues. The mandatory state high risk pools will be funded at least in part by the federal government and in some cases also federally administered, though many states have volunteered to administer the pools themselves and contribute the lion’s share of funding. The pools –referred to as “pre-existing condition insurance plans” – are meant to provide health insurance for residents with pre-existing conditions who would otherwise be ineligible for coverage. Last week, the Obama administration announced it would not permit funding to be used for elective abortions under the program. This angered pro-choice groups who argue the President is bending over backwards, compromising campaign promises to appease a few pro-life Democrats.
Pro-choice advocates further allege that the administration does not have the legal authority to determine whether funding can be used to pay for abortions, as the use of funds for such procedures in high risk pools was not mentioned in the language of the Affordable Care Act or the subsequent executive order. Pro-lifers and Republicans say that even if the high risk pools were not included in the language of the executive order which affirmed the Hyde Amendment, the principle of the deal which solidified pro-life Democrats’ last-minute votes should still apply. Essentially, the President promised Democrats the reform would neither expand nor contract abortion availability, and his office should keep that promise.
Abortion-rights groups respond that many states’ existing high risk pools currently cover abortions for good reason. Many of the women enrolled in high risk pools have chronic health problems like diabetes which can make pregnancy dangerous. Abortions must be available to these women as a backup plan if their birth control fails as a pregnancy could seriously threaten their health, or even their lives.