House GOP trying to use coronavirus relief to attack abortion — again


House Republicans are pushing a bill that would even ban abortion funding from some private insurance plans.

A group of nearly three dozen House Republicans co-sponsored legislation that would ban any coronavirus relief funds from being used for abortions, a move that could ban abortion coverage from private employer-sponsored plans.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), would "extend the existing Hyde Amendment" to block Americans from using federal tax credits they receive "to cover any post-employment healthcare (COBRA) premiums that include abortion coverage."

With more than 30 million Americans out of work, and thus without access to their employer-sponsored health care plans, congressional Democrats are seeking additional relief funding to help subsidize COBRA premiums. COBRA allows laid off workers to continue the employer-sponsored plan they had, but often at a steep cost.

The HEROES Act, which Democrats introduced on Tuesday, "Provides full premium subsidies, through January 2021, to allow workers to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage if they are eligible for COBRA due to a layoff or reduction in hours, and for workers who have been furloughed but are still active in their employer-sponsored plan," according to a summary of the bill.

But if Conaway's bill passed, it would prohibit those COBRA plans from covering abortion services, even if the plans previously included that service.

That could add "hundreds or thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for abortion services," according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Conaway said in a statement that his bill, "protects innocent, unborn children by ensuring that the right-to-life is a fundamental component of any federal COVID-19-related healthcare measures."

"As our nation begins the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remain vigilant to protect the most vulnerable among us," Conaway said.

Democrats condemned the effort to expand the Hyde Amendment.

"Abortion care is healthcare, and it's unconscionable to block access to healthcare in the middle of a pandemic," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) tweeted on May 7. "We cannot allow anti-choice lawmakers to use #COVID19 as a pretext to deny reproductive justice any longer."

This is not the first time Republicans have brought up abortion rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early March, Republicans tried to hold up the first coronavirus relief package by falsely claiming it contained an "abortion slush fund."

And GOP governors across the country have tried to use the pandemic to ban abortion in their state.

Ultimately, Conaway's bill has almost no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled House.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.