President Obama’s strategy of avoiding the abortion issue in order to successfully pass health care reform isn’t going so well. His repeated claims that health care legislation will not fund abortion have done little to prevent national headlines like, “Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care.” Major media outlets from Time magazine to the Associated Press and the non-partisan Factcheck.org (hardly bastions of pro-life praise) report that abortion funding will be included in the president’s health plan before Congress.
Even opposition from his own party is significant. Forty Democrats in the House of Representatives have joined Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) to challenge the president’s assertion, pledging to oppose health care reform without changes to existing legislative language allowing abortion coverage.
From the other side, abortion advocates tee off on the phony compromise amendment sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-NY). According to supporters, the amendment ensures only “private funds” will fund abortion on-demand. This is simply not true.
A recent fact-check piece in The New York Times explained why the claims of private money funding abortion are really a farce. The paper reported, “in practice, the public and private money would all go into the same pot, and the source of money for any single procedure is largely a technicality.”
The reality is, if the president’s plan goes forward, checks will be written to abortionists and to health insurers covering abortions. Those checks will draw funds from one place: the treasury of the United States of America. This expansion of official government support for the abortion industry is a stark departure from current policy restricting abortion funding via the Hyde Amendment.
Any new health care program will not be funded through the traditional Department of Health and Human Services appropriations process. For this reason, the Hyde Amendment, which traditionally restricts federal funds for Medicaid abortions through that process, will not apply to the new program.
Opportunities have arisen to codify Hyde in health care reform legislation. An effort by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to permanently codify Hyde restrictions in the Senate health care bill were soundly defeated in the Senate Finance Committee last week.
And if abortion advocates’ misrepresentations of the bill’s true impact weren’t enough, now many of them are claiming that American women somehow want and deserve government-funded abortion on-demand. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) called Hatch’s efforts to ensure abortion coverage is excluded from health care reform “insulting” to American women.
Yet a nationwide poll released by the Susan B. Anthony List and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found the president and Congressional leaders lose more than they gain by including abortion coverage in health care reform. Americans are not clamoring for government-funded abortion on demand – not Democrats, not Independents, and certainly not women.
In fact, by including government-funded abortion in health care reform, the president turns off five times more voters than he gains. Overall, 58% of Americans say the government does not have an obligation to provide abortion services under a public health plan. Over half of Americans (women included) say it is wrong for the government to pay for abortions.
This may be surprising to elites but it is not to the rest of America. Americans realize radical feminists in favor of abortion rights have dramatically over-represented a minority position, misstating the centrality and ‘need’ for abortion on-demand.
Public opposition to abortion on-demand is rising, as reflected in last week’s polling released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Record numbers of Americans support commonsense restrictions on abortion. Experts at Pew attributed this increase in part to the abortion-friendly agenda of the Obama administration.
If Congressional leadership and the president fall on the sword of abortion coverage-- pleasing abortion allies and weaving it into the fabric of our daily lives-- they do so at the peril of the entire bill and their own political futures.
American women deserve health care reform that honors the life of both mother and child, not one that prescribes a government-funded mandate for abortion on-demand and makes American taxpayers complicit in almost every abortion. Without language that explicitly excludes abortion funding from health care reform, Congress will have a compelling reason to reject the president’s health care proposal – the will of the American people. Votes have consequences, and America is watching.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is the President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide organization dedicated to advancing, mobilizing, and representing pro-life women in the political process.