In July, following GOP allegations that states would be able to use federal dollars to cover none-Hyde abortions in the temporary high risk insurance pool program, HHS issued regulations prohibiting states from covering the procedure. “The (high-risk pool) program,” the regulation states, “is Federally-created, funded, and administered (whether directly or through contract); it is a temporary Federal insurance program in which the risk is borne by the Federal government up to a fixed appropriation. As such, the services covered by the PCIP program shall not include abortion services except in the case of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”
Progressive pro-choice advocates felt betrayed. Since there is no over-arching law that prevents states from using federal dollars to fund abortion services, the administration was not required to alter the state’s proposals. Writing at RH Reality Check, CAP’s Jessica Arons accused the administration of applying the Stupak amendment to the high risk pools and going beyond the bargain it struck. Now, 19 national pro-choice groups have “signed on to public comment, submitted Monday, urging HHS to ‘revise this rule and remove the ban.’” The group, Raising Women’s Voices has released a video and letter writing campaign, “highlighting stories of women with pre-existing conditions who have had abortions,” urging Sebelius to “lift the harmful abortion restrictions”:
My doctor said my health is at risk. Here is a Catch-22. My insurance will pay for the pregnancy that can seriously injure me, but it won’t cover the abortion that can protect my health. I don’t get it.
It’s unclear if the group can change the rules after it’s been written, but it’s fairly obvious that the pro-choice community was outmaneuvered by the Right. Few realized that Nelson’s amendment did not apply to every federal dollar in the health care law, and the administration seemed unprepared to fight once conservatives organized around the issue. In fact, when I spoke to some state sources who were implementing the pools, they were surprised to learn that the Hyde restrictions did not apply to the federal funds earmarked for the program. But what’s disappointing is that the administration felt so compelled to issue its restrictive regulations so quickly and reactively. If it was hoping to appease conservatives, then it overestimated the GOP’s willingness to recognize its concessions and underestimated its supporters ability to just accept the slight (yet again).
Public comment on the high risk pools closed Tuesday at midnight.