By Rachel del Guidice, Daily Signal reporter
Pro-life leaders are voicing concerns over elements of the Obamacare replacement plan unveiled Monday evening by House Republicans.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy organization, issued a statement Tuesday noting that money from refundable tax credits provided by the plan could be used to pay for abortions.
House Speaker Paul Ryan released the draft legislation, called the American Health Care Act, to a tepid response from conservatives who would prefer to repeal Obamacare and then pass a replacement for it.
On his organization’s website and in an email to supporters, Perkins said:
“The American Health Care Act contains important provisions which prevent these health care credits and state block grants from paying for plans that cover abortion on demand. However, there is still a pro-life concern in the bill because it could allow funds from the refundable credits to pay for abortions in health savings accounts.”
If the House amends the legislation to specify that tax credits cannot be used for abortion, Perkins suggested, Senate Republicans face significant challenges in passing such language.
Republicans are using a tool called budget reconciliation to pass their Obamacare replacement plan because it requires only 51 votes to clear the Senate, rather than 60 votes to end debate and proceed to a floor vote.
However, the Byrd rule, which dates to 1985 and is named for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., “limits the type of policies that can be included in reconciliation to those that are specifically related to the budget,” Rachel Bovard, director of policy services at The Heritage Foundation, said in an email to The Daily Signal.
The rule could prevent pro-life language from being included in the Senate version of the measure to repeal and replace Obamacare.
If a senator invokes the Byrd rule, the “extraneous matter” of disallowing use of tax credits for abortion could be stuck down, unless 60 senators voted to waive the rule. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats.
“Right now it’s unclear whether or not this pro-life provision would pass muster in the Senate,” said Bovard, a former Senate aide.
An Obamacare repeal and replace bill that doesn’t include a pro-life provision is exactly what concerns Perkins.
“If the abortion funding restrictions for health care credits and state funds in this new bill fails in the Senate, then these provisions will subsidize abortion. In that case, the pro-life community could not support the overall bill and should oppose it,” he said.
In 2015, the House and Senate passed an Obamacare repeal bill with a pro-life component using the budget reconciliation process. It “cleared all the procedural loopholes in the Senate,” Bovard said, though President Barack Obama vetoed it in January 2016.
While Republicans’ new repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act, does include pro-life measures such as a yearlong freeze on federal taxpayers’ money going to Planned Parenthood, pro-life organizations say the bill could go further.
Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said lawmakers have work to do on the replacement plan.
“There is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that this entire bill is pro-life, specifically with regards to tax credits and health care savings—ensuring that neither go to pay for abortion,” McClusky said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Our message is simple: Abortion is not health care, and our laws should reflect this basic principle.”