WASHINGTON (September 30, 2009) -- Events this week in Congress provide fresh proof that top Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing forward with plans to establish massive new programs that would pay for elective abortions and subsidize insurance coverage of abortions -- which, if achieved, would break from decades of federal policy.
"Bills currently advancing in Congress would establish direct federal funding of elective abortion, and tax subsidies for private insurance that covers elective abortions -- both drastic breaks from longstanding federal policy," commented Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states. "Ongoing events on Capitol Hill demonstrate the hollowness of President Obama's public assurances that he does not seek government funding of abortion."
The Senate Finance Committee today continued a series of meetings to amend the "America's Healthy Future Act," a health care restructuring bill proposed by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mt.). The bill has a number of major abortion-related problems. Most of today's abortion-related debate in the committee focused on a proposed new program that would use tax money to help purchase private health insurance for about 19 million Americans. The bill specifically authorizes the use of these federal funds to pay premiums on private plans that cover elective abortions -- a departure from longstanding federal policy.
Pro-life Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) pointed out that federal subsidies for coverage of elective abortions are not currently allowed under Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, or other federal health programs. Hatch offered an amendment, backed by NRLC, that would have prohibited federal funds from subsidizing plans that cover elective abortions, but would have allowed insurers to sell abortion coverage through separate supplemental policies not subsidized by federal funds. The Hatch Amendment failed, 10-13. Baucus and all other Democrats on the committee opposed the Hatch Amendment, except for Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), who supported it. All of the Republicans on the committee supported the Hatch Amendment, except for Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who opposed it.
By an identical roll call, the committee also rejected another Hatch Amendment that would have codified the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, which is a temporary law prohibiting any level of government from discriminating against health-care providers that do not wish to participate in providing abortions.
On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved a different health care bill (S. 1679), which also contains provisions that would result in sweeping pro-abortion mandates and government subsidies for elective abortion. NRLC's Johnson commented, "Today's Finance Committee votes mean that the combined bill that will reach the Senate floor in a few weeks surely will contain provisions that would result in both pro-abortion federal mandates and huge federal abortion subsidies. However, the full Senate must vote on the pro-abortion subsidies, and other pro-abortion components as well."
Meanwhile, in the House, Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mi.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), and 181 other members of the U.S. House on September 28 sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), pointing out that the health care bill approved in the House Energy and Commerce Committee (H.R. 3200), including an amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Ca.), "radically departs from the current federal government policy of not paying for elective abortion or subsidizing plans that cover abortion." The letter notes, among other things, that the Capps language "explicitly authorizes the federal government (the Department of Health and Human Services) to directly fund elective abortions, with federal (public) funds drawn on a federal Treasury account," through the proposed "public plan."
The signers -- 25 Democrats and 158 Republicans -- urged Pelosi to allow a vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to prohibit coverage of elective abortions by the public plan and subsidies for private plans that cover elective abortions. Seven other House Democrats have sent Pelosi similar letters in recent days, for a total of 32 Democrats.
In response, on September 29 Rep. Capps sent Pelosi a letter in which she argued that the proposed public plan really would not be paying for abortions because "money is transmitted to a private contractor who then reimburses physicians." Johnson called Capps' argument "truly laughable -- it is like arguing that it is not the government paying for the abortions if the government sends the payment via the Internet."
In reality, Johnson said, "The proposed public plan will be entirely a branch of the federal government, all of its funds will be federal funds, and when it pays for abortions, that will be direct government funding of abortion."
Johnson also noted that the nearly united opposition to the Hatch Amendment by Senate Finance Committee Democrats, and the continued resistance by the House Democratic leadership to allowing a vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, "support our theory that President Obama is misleading the public when he says he does not want federal dollars used for abortion. In an attempt to keep his 2007 promises to Planned Parenthood, the President is trying to smuggle sweeping pro-abortion policies into law behind smokescreens of contrived language, verbal misdirection, and outright misrepresentation."