During his speech to Congress on September 9, 2009, President Obama radically departed from his former promises to Planned Parenthood when he stated: “under our [health care reform] plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” He did not explain how this would be accomplished when, at the time that he gave that speech, none of the five versions of health care reform legislation on Capitol Hill prohibited federal funding of abortion -- and two expressly included it.
Nearly three months later, abortion funding remains one of the most hotly debated issues in health care reform, largely because President Obama has not followed through on his promise to ensure that abortion funding is not in the bill. In fact, he offered no opinions on specific abortion-related amendments until the Stupak-Pitts amendment was added to H.R. 3962 on the House Floor.
Now, however, he has echoed the mantra of the abortion lobby and pro-abortion members of Congress, stating, “there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo.”
In reality, pro-life members of Congress carefully crafted the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, added to H.R. 3962 with the support of 64 democrats, to mirror the Hyde Amendment which has applied to programs funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Bill since 1976. In contrast, the pro-abortion “Capps amendment,” a version of which is currently in the Senate bill, expressly provides for federal funding of abortion and private insurance plans that cover abortion, flouting over 30 years of federal policy.
The fact that the Stupak-Pitts amendment, not the Capps amendment, maintains existing law can be established from studying the Hyde Amendment and similar laws that apply to other programs.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds that are appropriated through the LHHS appropriations bill from being used to pay for abortion and prevents federal funds from being used to subsidize health care plans that offer abortion coverage.
In other words, programs like Medicaid cannot directly pay for abortions or subsidize private plans that include abortion coverage. The Stupak Amendment applies exactly the same principles to the new programs created by H.R. 3962. Just as Medicaid dollars cannot be used to subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortions, neither can the new affordability credits created by health care reform.
Other government programs apply these principles to federal funds as well. The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program has a longstanding restriction on abortion funding and coverage. The current law provides: “No funds appropriated by this Act shall be available to pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.”
Importantly, even as President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership are professing their desire to maintain the status quo, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Fiscal Year 2010 Financial Services Appropriations Bill (S. 1432) without the provision restricting abortion coverage in the FEHB Program.
Perhaps that is why Democrats do not want the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to be part of health care reform – it contradicts their grand plan to change the law on federal funding for abortion.
A simple survey of other changes and proposed changes to abortion-related laws during the first year of Obama’s presidency and the 111th Congress supports this theory – President Obama repealed the Mexico City policy and there is movement in the Senate to codify that repeal; Congress rejected the “Wicker Amendment” to prevent federal funding of the U.N. Population Fund which has an admittedly pro-abortion agenda; the House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act without the “Dornan Amendment” to prevent all Congressionally appropriated funds from paying for elective abortions in Washington, D.C. and the list goes on.
Do we really trust President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership to safeguard the “status quo” on federal funding of abortion? Their actions so far in this Congress more than suggest that they are right on board with the pro-abortion lobby’s plan to mainstream abortion as health care, entitled to federal subsidization like any other surgical procedure. The vast majority of Americans disagree. That is why members of Congress who professes to oppose taxpayer funded abortion must insist that the Stupak-Pitts language remains in the final health care reform bill, and reject any disingenuous “compromises” offered by their pro-abortion colleagues.
Mary Harned is Staff Counsel of Americans United for Life (AUL). AUL, the oldest national pro-life public policy organization in the country and has been involved in every life-related case before the Supreme Court beginning with Roe v. Wade. AUL Action, AUL’s legislative arm, has a health care reform Web site located at REAL Health Care Respects Life.com.