As states roll out their newly mandated high-risk pools under ObamaCare, a troubling trend is emerging.  Pennsylvania and Maryland released documents on their state websites earlier this summer that implied their plans would cover elective abortions.  Additionally, New Mexico posted a draft summary of its high-risk pool services that listed elective abortion as among its covered services.

The initial reaction from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House was complete silence.  It was not until the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) called out those states that a spokesperson for HHS announced on July 14 that abortions will not be covered in the federally funded high-risk pools, except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the mother would be endangered. It’s entirely possible that had NRLC not blown the whistle, HHS could have let states get by with federal funding of abortion.

On July 23 the Congressional Research Service confirmed the core problem (PDF) with the high-risk pools and other programs created under ObamaCare: neither the underlying law itself, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nor the President’s executive order of March 24, nor the annual Hyde Amendment abortion funding limit bars the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions.  The law does, however, give the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to determine requirements the Secretary deems appropriate.

With the kind of chaos that has followed much of the implementation of ObamaCare to date, the only thing that stood between state high-risk pools and elective abortion was the July 14 HHS press release – that is, until July 29, when HHS issued a formal rule applying the Hyde restriction to the high-risk pools.  Welcome as this belated action is, it was undercut the same day by the White House health policy czar who said that the rule “is not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program . . .”

In other words, the Obama Administration is formally acknowledging that the decision to apply abortion funding limits to any number of federal health programs is a “game-time decision” for bureaucrats.

This is the nightmare scenario that I and many of my colleagues in the House and Senate warned of during the health care debate. While states offering taxpayer-funded abortions in high-risk pools may be compelled for now to back away from their initial proposals, the fact remains: ObamaCare offers no permanent, comprehensive statutory protection against taxpayer funding of abortions. This highlights the fragile nature of Obama’s executive order prohibiting abortion coverage under ObamaCare.  And you can be certain that this is just one of many such “surprises” that will emerge from the bureaucratic quagmire that is ObamaCare.

While I am hopeful we will prevail and protect taxpayers from being forced to fund elective abortions, this debate underscores the larger problems with ObamaCare. The law is riddled with undisclosed costs and hidden problems, many that have yet to surface. For that reason, I have pledged to repeal and defund this government takeover of health care.  But, for now, we must fight for permanent legislative language to protect taxpayers from funding elective abortions.  When it comes to defending the unborn, there is no room for compromise.

Congressman Lamborn of Colorado Springs, Colorado represents the state’s Fifth Congressional District.

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