White House “Smuggling” Abortion into Health Care Reform

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A spokesman for one of the nation’s largest pro-life groups warns that recent remarks by the White House press secretary on October 7 indicate that the government is still trying to “smuggle” federally funded abortion into health care reform.

According to Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) the following exchange took place during the Oct. 7 press briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
QUESTION [by CNS News reporter Fred Lucas]: It’s a question on health care, actually; two questions. First, in a letter to senators last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that, quoting, “So far the health reform bills considered in the committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met the President’s challenge of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion.”  Is that statement wrong?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, I don’t want to get me in trouble at church, but I would mention there’s a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion that isn’t going to be changed in these health care bills.
Q: There have been, though, several amendments that would explicitly bar abortions, that would therefore reject it, some of those amendments by Democrats —
MR. GIBBS: Again, there’s a fairly well documented federal law that prevents it.
Johnson points out that Gibbs’ answer repeats a discredited claim made by Pres. Obama on Aug. 20 when he said: “There are no plans under health reform to revoke the existing prohibition on using federal taxpayer dollars for abortions. Nobody is talking about changing that existing provision, the Hyde Amendment.  Let’s be clear about that.  It’s just not true.”
However, these statements are aimed at deceiving the public.

“Gibbs’ statement is one more proof, if any more were needed, that the White House is actively engaged in a political smuggling operation — an attempt to achieve funding of elective abortion by the federal government, cloaked in smokescreens of contrived language and outright deception,” Johnson says.

“There is no current federal law that would prevent the new programs created by the pending health care bills from paying for abortion on demand — and the White House knows this full well.  Only language written directly into the bills would prevent government funding of abortions — but such language has been blocked by the Democratic chairmen of five congressional committees, with White House cooperation, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to allow the House to even vote on adding a true Hyde Amendment to the health care bill.”

Each of the bills pending in Congress has one or both of the following components, Johnson explains. They have either a nationwide government-run insurance program, a “public plan” and/or programs that would subsidize health insurance for tens of millions of Americans.  
“None of the funds that would be spent by the public plan, and none of the funds that would be spent by the premium subsidy programs, would be appropriated through the annual appropriations bills,” Johnson writes. “This has been confirmed in memoranda issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. This means that none of these funds will be covered by the Hyde Amendment, because the Hyde Amendment applies only to funds appropriated through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill.”

Under the House bill (H.R. 3200), as amended by the Capps-Waxman Amendment, the public plan would be explicitly authorized to cover elective abortions with this plan being a program within the Department of Health and Human Services. 
“When senior congressional Democrats suggest that the public plan would pay for abortions with ‘private funds,’ they are engaged in a deception, a political hoax,” Johnson said. 

“The public plan would be a program operated by a federal agency, which by law can spend only federal funds. The public plan would be engaged in direct funding of elective abortion.  The Hyde Amendment would not apply to this program, and the Capps Amendment explicitly authorizes the federal agency to pay for the elective abortions, using funds drawn on a U.S. Treasury account.”

The NRLC has issued a detailed memorandum that explains how the proposed public plan and the proposed premium subsidy programs would be funded, and why the Hyde Amendment would not apply to the proposed new programs.
Why is the White House so intent on deceiving the public? Because three recent national polls show strong public opposition to government-funded abortion, Johnson said.

The NRLC’s memorandum can be found at this address: http://www.nrlc.org/ahc/NRLCmemoHydeAmendmentWillNotApply.html

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