Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2014 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life groups have responded forcefully to a new report finding that despite promises from President Barack Obama, more than 1,000 health care plans under the Affordable Care Act cover abortion.
“[T]he President issued an executive order on March 24, 2010 that said: ‘the Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to newly created health insurance exchanges’,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) stated on Tuesday. “It turns out that those ironclad promises made by the President himself are absolutely untrue.”
Smith was among numerous pro-life advocates who voiced sharp criticism following a new government accountability report finding abortion coverage in many subsidized health plans in the state exchanges, in violation of promises made by Obama.
Current U.S. laws such as the Hyde Amendment prevent the federal funding of abortion for many government programs. However, the amendment does not apply to the Affordable Care Act, which has its own sources of funding, rather than seeking funding through the annual appropriations bills.
Debates over abortion funding in the 2010 health care law threatened to prevent its passage, as a group of pro-life Democrats said they would only support the legislation if abortion funding were excluded.
In response, President Obama promised an executive order to ban this funding. At the time, numerous pro-life groups warned that the order was legally unenforceable and would have no actual impact on the legislation.
A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) now shows that the executive order has in fact not been followed in more than 1,000 health plans across the country.
The report, released Monday night by the independent, nonpartisan agency, reveals the qualified health plans offered on the state exchanges that cover “non-excepted abortion services,” those that do not involve rape, incest or a potential threat to the life of the mother.
In five states – Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont – all taxpayer-funded health plans offered cover abortions.
In other states, nearly all qualified health plans offered cover abortions. In Massachusetts, for example, 109 out of the 111 plans offered cover abortions. In New York, 405 out of the 426 plans offered cover abortions. In California, 86 out of the 90 plans offered do so.
The report added that 15 health plan issuers questioned by the GAO affirmed that abortion benefits in their health plans were not subject to restriction.
Enrollees were supposed to be billed separately for their abortion coverage, but the GAO found that this was not always carried out in practice.
“Fifteen issuers and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange,” the report stated, “did not itemize the premium amount associated with non-excepted abortion services coverage on enrollees’ bills nor indicate that they send a separate bill for that premium amount.”
Numerous pro-life advocates voiced their outrage over the GAO’s findings.
“Today’s report is confirmation that ObamaCare is a massive expansion of abortion on demand, paid for by the taxpayers,” stated Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson said the report indicates a “broken promise” on the part of the administration.
“President Obama offered assurances that abortion would not be funded as a result of his health care legislation,” he stated, pointing to Obama’s 2009 statement to a joint session of Congress: “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”
Anderson also charged that “the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion,” as indicated by the group’s poll this year which found 58-37 percent opposition.
“Obamacare only had the votes to become law because promises were made that federal funds would not be used to perform these procedures,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) stated.
“Now the GAO has proven that the government has failed to ensure that the insurance issuers are not billing the abortion surcharge separately as required by the law,” she said. “So the question remains, what will the Administration now do to ensure compliance? This must be fixed.”
Legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom insisted that “this report exposes what we’ve known all along: that Obamacare was designed to force Americans to pay for abortions.”
“Federal law protects Americans from paying for others’ abortions, but Obamacare architects built a purposely deceptive accounting scheme into the massive law that makes people in all 50 states fund abortion,” the group said.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for support of legislation that would explicitly block federal funding of abortions in the health care law.
“Earlier this year the House passed H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, on a bipartisan basis to prohibit federal funding for such purpose under ObamaCare,” he stated. “This GAO report underscores the need for the Senate to do its job and pass this common-sense legislation.”
Vatican City, Sep 16, 2014 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday focused on the importance of giving hope to the world by imitating Jesus Christ’s closeness to God’s people.
“When God visits his people he restores hope to them. Always,” Pope Francis said in his Sept. 16 homily at his Casa Santa Marta residence. “You can preach the Word of God brilliantly: there have been many excellent preachers throughout history. But if these preachers have failed to sow hope, that sermon is useless. It is mere vanity.”
The Pope’s homily commented on the Gospel reading of the day, in which Jesus came upon a funeral procession for the only son of a widow in the city of Nain.
“God visits his people in the midst of his people, and draws near to them,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio. “Proximity. This is how God works.”
He noted that Jesus was “deeply moved” at the funeral procession of the young man.
“Closeness and compassion: this is how the Lord visits his people. And when we want to proclaim the Gospel, to bring forth the word of Jesus, this is the path.”
He contrasted this path with “the other path” of the doctors of the law, the scribes and the Pharisees who “distanced themselves from the people, with their words.”
“They taught the law, well. But they were distant,” he said. Their path was “not a visit of the Lord” but “something else.”
“The people did not feel this to be a grace, because it lacked that closeness, it lacked compassion, it lacked that essence of suffering with the people,” he said.
Pope Francis noted that when Jesus visited his people, “the dead man sat up and began to speak” and Jesus “restored him to his mother.”
The Pope closed with a prayer: “we ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to his people, that closeness that sows hope.”