The XX Factor

No Federal Funding for Abortion. For Now.

Emily, I would like to believe that the health care bill won’t lead to federal funding of abortion. And I think you are right that the Hyde Amendment isn’t going anywhere. The health care debate alerted many people, I’m sure, to the fact that the amendment isn’t long-standing law but a rider that must be renewed each year and that applies only to the HHS/Labor/Education appropriations, not all federal funding.

But, like Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post , I’m not as optimistic that we won’t eventually see federal dollars going toward abortion. We’re already seeing that the spirit of the bill is differing from the letter of the law. Children with pre-existing conditions were supposed to be able to get insurance coverage from Day 1, but the bill was written so clumsily that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebilius has to issue regulations to make it happen. On another front, the bill provides for $10 billion to hire new IRS agents to make sure citizens are complying with the mandates, but as Tyler Cowen points out (and Megan McArdle provides good analysis ), the Joint Committee on Taxation has stated that “non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties.” So people are supposed to be buying insurance but there’s no way to enforce it, and we’re still spending $10 billion on new IRS agents.

What do the pre-existing conditions snafu and enforcement questions have to do with abortion? Nothing.  But we’re less than a week into the implementation of health care reform, and we’re already seeing the differences between the product that was advertised and the product that we received. A pinky-swear from President Obama not to fund abortion doesn’t exactly make me rest easy.