The XX Factor

Federal Money for Abortions Is Not on the Way

Kathleen Parker warns in the Washington Post that “federally funded abortions are in our future.” Her argument is that Obama’s executive order stating that the Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion funding apply to community health centers isn’t “judicially enforceable” because “an executive order cannot override a statute.”

Parker is right about one thing: The overall meaning of the executive order and its relationship to the bill is not obvious. That’s why the White House and Stupak don’t agree about it. But let’s get out of the legal thicket and back to the practicalities here. Nothing in the bill say that federal funding can be used for abortions at community health centers-it’s silent on the issue, not favorable. That’s why a judge could look to the executive order on this point, I’d think (statutory interpretation mavens, tell me if I’m wrong). What’s more important, though, is that the president has just signed an order saying that federal money won’t be used for abortions at community health centers. How likely is it that his administration is going to turn around and do the opposite, after a hugely contentious battle over abortion that the White House did its best to sidestep at every point along the way? You don’t have to be an Obama lover to see why, politically speaking, it’s a nonstarter.

Consistently since his candidacy began, Obama has tried to neutralize abortion, not detonate it. If anything, this whole uproar makes it even less likely that the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal Medicaid money for going to abortions and has to pass as a rider each year, is going anywhere. On abortion, health care reform is about maintaining the status quo: Poor women get state funding for abortions in the 17 states that provide it. Everywhere else, they’ll continue to pay their own way.