Latest Conservative Gotcha: Obamacare Subsidizes Pregnant Women

Abortion protesters line up outside the Supreme Court.Ben Schumin/Wikimedia

Opponents of abortion rights have seized on one activist’s “discovery” that the Affordable Care Act helps pregnant women pay for neonatal care to accuse the Obama administration of hypocrisy.

The argument has its roots in a questionnaire on Connecticut’s state health insurance exchange website. This questionnaire includes an optional question asking applicants whether they are pregnant. If an applicant hovers her mouse over the question, a tiny bit of text pops up explaining that “Unborn children are counted as members of [a pregnant woman’s] household, so this information helps determine if she is eligible for help with health care costs. Medicaid also has rules to help pregnant women.”

Abortion foes have cited this pop-up line of text—first noticed by Simcha Reuven, a member of the conservative group Family Institute of Connecticut Action—to argue that “counting unborn children” is inconsistent with a law that they claim uses government money to subsidize abortions. “It’s ironic that some exchanges are counting unborn children for certain purposes when the entire Obamacare law is structured to increase access to abortion,” Susan Muskett, legislative counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, told One News Now last week.

In reality, the Affordable Care Act does not subsidize abortions. (Its free contraception provision may even reduce abortions.) President Obama signed an executive order in 2010 prohibiting the Affordable Care Act from using tax dollars to pay for abortions. And the pop-up text on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange website is easily explained: Obamacare was drafted with heavy subsidies for pregnancy care in a bid to appease opponents of legal abortion. So under the law, a pregnant woman who intends to carry her pregnancy to term may qualify for substantial financial assistance for neonatal care. A pregnant woman who intends to get an abortion, won’t. To sort out women’s plans, state health care exchanges simply ask.