The Nelson-Reid agreement on abortion is not the only source of taxpayer funding for abortion. An obscure addition to the Senate version of health care reform that was adopted on Christmas Eve is a gift package with unexpected contents: even more taxpayer funding of elective abortions. According to a new analysis just released by National Right to Life Committee legislative director Doug Johnson, Sec. 10503 of the Reid “Manager’s Amendment” to H.R. 3590 directly appropriates funds for community health centers (CHCs). These funds would not be covered by the annual abortion funding limitation known as the Hyde Amendment or by any other existing limitation.

The funding amounts are huge – $7 billion over five years, beginning with $700,000,000 in the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2010. The fact that H.R. 3590 appropriates these funds directly means that they will not be included in the annual Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) spending bill, even though the community health center money is appropriated by H.R. 3590 to the HHS Department. Moreover, the underlying authorizing law for community health centers, 42 U.S.C. 254b and Section 330 of the Public Health Services Act, contains no language limiting abortion funding, and it is unlikely in the extreme that the Obama Administration would administratively rule such funding out-of-bounds in future CHC grant-making.

The sponsor of the CHC amendment is Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). The idea is coupled with additional funding in the bill to finance more public health service medical personnel to help staff CHCs. There is already an effort underway by a private entity called the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) to encourage CHCs to perform abortions under primary health care. The RHAP has combined with the Abortion Access Project to promote ways in which CHCs can incorporate elective abortion into their service settings and maximize the types of ancillary services that can be reimbursed with state and federal funds under current law. The Sanders amendment will open the spigots wide for these reimbursements and for funding of the abortion procedure itself.

Researchers have investigated and endorsed the use of the drug RU-486, a medical (that is, non-surgical) abortion regimen in the context of family practice, including CHCs. The late addition of the $7 billion in funding for community health centers could in time become a primary vehicle for underwriting tax-funded abortions, compounding the existing abortion-funding mechanisms in the Senate-passed bill.