While the debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers has largely fallen from the national scene, it is sure to return soon. During March of this year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law a continuing resolution funding the government until September 30, 2018. This means absent another continuing resolution, or smaller appropriations bills, a lapse in federal funding will cause the federal government to shut down.
On June 25, the Senate passed a “mini-bus” appropriations bill funding several agencies. The House had previously approved different versions of the same bill, which will be conferenced into one piece of legislation to be considered after the differences are mediated.
One of the questions yet to be resolved in the appropriations process for next year is the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from funding abortions (with exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother) through federal programs like Medicaid.
Unlike a permanent law, the Hyde Amendment must “ride” on an appropriations bill every year in order to prevent taxpayers from subsidizing abortions. The inclusion of this amendment was non-controversial until 2016 when the Democratic Party adopted a plank into its platform supporting the repeal of Hyde.
While the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment is critically important to prevent the expenditure of federal tax dollars on abortions, it does not prevent all taxpayer-funded abortions. The Medicaid program, for example, is a health program for low-income individuals which is jointly funded between the federal government and the states. While the federal government sets parameters, the states have flexibility to decide what providers and services may be covered under their state plans.
Seventeen states fund abortions with their state Medicaid funds. As if this wasn’t egregious enough, a closer look produces some pretty eye-popping data from these states.
For instance, some states have paid for as many as 50% of the abortions occurring in said states. In 2017, 1,255 abortions occurred in Alaska. Of those, 635 were paid for by Medicaid. Similarly, West Virginia reported that in 2015, 763 of the state’s 1,519 abortions were paid by Medicaid. While New Mexico didn’t report how many abortions it funded in 2015, the total the taxpayers of New Mexico spent on abortion procedures was $210,628.08.
California reported that in 2014, the state paid for a staggering 83,485 abortions at $400 to $700 depending on the procedure, putting even low estimates on abortion expenditures in the millions of dollars for that year. Joining California in this auspicious category is Maryland, which spent at least $5.3 million on 7,812 abortions in 2016.
Blazing new territory in the funding of abortions is Oregon, which in 2017 passed a law requiring all health insurance plans to provide abortions to beneficiaries with no out-of-pocket costs — and allows Medicaid to pay for the abortions of illegal immigrants. The state estimates it will spend $300,000 per year on abortions for people in the country illegally. Washington State recently adopted a similar law.
Concerned taxpayers who are pro-life would be right to worry their federal taxes are being leveraged by states to pay for abortions which wouldn’t otherwise occur if they weren’t receiving Medicaid funds.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute has reported states which fund abortion through Medicaid have a tendency to see an increase of abortions. While maintaining the Hyde Amendment is important to prevent a vast increase of public expenditures on abortions (and an increase in abortions themselves), it may be even more important for Congress to examine ways to protect the Medicaid program from allowing states to subsidize the destruction of preborn life.
Katherine Wheeler is a wife and mom living in the Twin Cities area. She worked for Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Her policy expertise is health and entitlements.