Policy-ish

Battle Continues Over Abortion In High-Risk Insurance Pools

The battle over whether the new federally-funded program to help people with pre-existing health conditions will pay for abortions just won't go away.

Last week, the Obama administration said it would not allow funding for elective abortions in the new program, which it's calling "Pre-existing condition insurance plans," despite claims to the contrary by anti-abortion groups.

That set off a backlash by abortion-rights groups, who claim the administration is knuckling under to a few anti-abortion Democrats.

As of now, both sides are still unhappy.

The conservative website CNS News reported Friday that Maryland would provide federally-funded abortion coverage in its high-risk pool — a charge Maryland officials were quick to deny.

But its abortion-rights advocates who are feeling particularly angered by this latest Administration action.

On the one hand, they question whether the administration even has the legal authority to impose the ban, since the high-risk pools were not mentioned in the abortion-restricting language in either the bill or the executive order the President issued in exchange for winning the final votes of abortion-opposing Democrats.

But even if it does, wrote Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress on the Reproductive Health Reality Check blog, there's a simple question of fairness — the final deal on the health law was that it was supposed to neither expand nor contract abortion availability.

"Abortion opponents who participated in the bargaining did not raise concerns about high risk pools or other specific potential sources of federal funding, and they should be able to live with the deal they made," Arons wrote.

And there's a reason many states currently cover abortion in their existing high risk pools, wrote Douglas Laube of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health:

"Many women entering the high risk pools have underlying medical problems, like cancer and diabetes, that make pregnancy risky. They must have abortion available as a backup if their birth control fails, or if a planned pregnancy unexpectedly threatens their health, as happened to me when a kidney transplant patient experienced dangerously high blood pressure in her third month of pregnancy."

As with all things abortion-related, this is not a battle likely to end any time soon.

Check out my conversation with Robert Siegel on All Things Considered tonight.

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