Health bills create tension over abortion coverage

The Associated Press reports: "Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.

Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to cases involving rape, incest or danger to the health of the mother. Abortion opponents say those restrictions should carry over to any health insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned under the legislation, an exchange where people would choose private coverage or the public plan. Abortion rights supporters say that would have the effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions of women who now have it through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange. Advocates on both sides are preparing for a renewed battle over abortion, which could jeopardize political support for President Barack Obama's health care initiative aimed at covering nearly 50 million uninsured and restraining medical costs" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 8/5).

The Wall Street Journal reports on Catholics' unease with abortion following a Catholic hospital system announcement of a joint venture with a secular company to provide insurance to the poor under Massachusetts' universal health-care program. The Journal reports: "The tension between Catholicism's commitment to the poor and opposition to abortion touched off weeks of debate, prompting Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston to consult with Catholic bioethicists -- and, eventually, to insist the joint venture be scrubbed. The controversy in Massachusetts has resonated with many Catholics across the country, as they assess the health-care bills moving through Congress against the backdrop of church teachings."

The Journal reports: "Providing health care, especially to the poor, is one of the church's core missions. One in eight hospitals in the U.S. is affiliated with the Catholic Church; they employ more than 750,000 people and handle 16% of hospital admissions. ... But what if an overhaul expands access to abortion, subsidizes it with tax money -- or, as in Massachusetts, requires Catholic hospitals to offer referrals if they hope to be included in government-run insurance plans?" (Simon, 8/5).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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