5 Things You Should Know About President Obama’s Executive Order On Abortion Limits

Yesterday President Obama signed historic health care reform (HCR) legislation into law. But today, as part of an agreement with anti-choice Democratic politicians whose support was needed to pass HCR, the president will sign an executive order issuing limits on abortion.

After the jump, we’ll explain what this executive order means and how it came to pass.

  1. Obama’s executive order will basically reaffirm everything set out in the Hyde Amendment and extends them to health insurance companies. The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976 as an attachment to the Medicaid bill, which helps low-income Americans and forbids the government from paying for abortion services. Under the new HCR legislation, Obama’s executive order will reaffirm that federal funds (i.e., tax dollars) can’t be used for abortion, except in the case of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. You can read a full text of the executive order here. This is the White House’s statement on the order:

    “While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation’s restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.”

  • The HCR bill will create insurance “exchanges” for businesses or individuals to buy health insurance; there will be options for ones that cover abortion and ones that do not. Also, now that HCR will help many Americans get health insurance with taxpayer money, insurance companies will have to keep the money for plans that cover abortion services separate from the other money. This will be accomplished by asking people to purchase a “health insurance rider,” i.e., an addition to their health insurance plan to cover abortion.
  • However, The Wall Street Journal wonders if the new requirements placed on insurance companies regarding abortion (i.e., separating the funds) will be considered a hassle and will lead to fewer companies to cover it.
  • The executive order is basically the result of Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who led a group of anti-abortion Democratic representatives who were in opposition to the HCR bill because they were concerned it would allow tax money to be used to pay for abortions. You can read more about an amendment Stupak introduced to the House version of the HCR bill here and you can read about a similar amendment introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson of Nebraska to the Senate version here. (These amendments aren’t necessarily in the version of the HCR legislation that passed; I am just including the links here for background information.)
  • While the HCR bill was signed with Obama surrounded by reporters and TV cameras, the signing of the executive order placing limits on abortion will be closed off to the media. However, Rep. Stupak and 12 of his colleagues will be in attendance.

[New York Times Prescriptions Blog: “The Deal That Changed Everything”]
[ACLU: The Hyde Amendment]
[Wall Street Journal: “Strict Abortion Rules Mean Fewer Insurers May Offer Coverage”]

*Thanks to commenter Jessalyn for pointing out the acronym “HCR” stands for “health care reform” — not HRC, which stands for the Human Rights Campaign!