WASHINGTON –– Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley urged members of Congress to support the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, a measure that would require health plans to disclose if they subsidize abortion coverage.
Cardinal O'Malley, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the legislation would address one part of the abortion-related problem in the Affordable Care Act.
In his Nov. 1 letter, the cardinal pointed out that under the federal health care law — unless state law requires otherwise – each insurer may choose whether to include coverage of elective abortions in health plans it offers on a state health exchange.
He noted that if the insurer does cover such abortions, the overall health plan may still receive federal tax subsidies, which he said violates the policies governing all other federal health programs.
"In no other program may federal funds subsidize any part of a health plan that covers such abortions; and nowhere else does the federal government forbid insurers to allow an 'opt-out' from such coverage on conscience grounds," he wrote.
The cardinal added that the health care law also has "unique secrecy provisions" protecting the insurer from having to answer if the plan covers abortions — except when it lists all services at the time the consumer is already enrolling in the plan. The insurer also does not have to reveal how much of the person's premium goes into a separate abortion fund.
"In other words, not only may pro-life people have a very limited choice of health plans that do not violate their consciences – but the law makes it all but impossible for them to find out which plans they are," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He also cited a 2009 poll that showed most Americans, particularly most women, do not want abortion coverage in their health plans.
The cardinal said the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., simply addresses the "unprecedented policy of government-enforced secrecy" by requiring health plans to report their abortion coverage and the extra payment they charge for abortion coverage.
He said such disclosure will enable Americans to "make an informed choice of a health plan for themselves and their families that does not violate their moral and religious convictions."
"This should be a point of agreement between lawmakers who consider themselves both 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice,'" he added. "Any claim of 'choice' is empty if the law conceals the facts needed to make that choice."