By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
When asked about the amendment that stripped abortion out of the House health care reform bill in a recent interview, President Obama said more work needs to be done with such an amendment to be sure it doesn’t change the “status quo” on abortion, a comment some are calling “phony.”
In an interview with ABC News this week, the president was asked about the pro-life amendment proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak that was adopted on Nov. 7 by a 46-vote margin in the House.
“I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill,” the president said during the interview. “And we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.”
Saying the bill cannot change the status quo regarding the ban on federally funding abortions, the President said “there are strong feelings on both sides” about an amendment passed on Saturday and added to the legislation, “and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo.”
He also said that he feels confident that the final version of the controversial legislation will ensure that “neither side feels that it’s being betrayed.”
“I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test,” he said, “that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices.”
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation’s largest pro-life group, said “The only thing that will prevent the health care bill from being ‘an abortion bill’ is precisely the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, as the House of Representatives recognized by a 46-vote margin. The phoniness of Obama’s claim that he has been trying to preserve the ‘status quo’ on abortion policy should be evident to any observer by now. In reality, the White House and top Democratic congressional leaders have been working hard to create a national federal government health plan that would fund abortion on demand, just as Obama promised Planned Parenthood.”
This now famous promise was made on July 17, 2007, during an address to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in which Obama said reproductive care is essential care, and that he considered it to be at the heart of any national health care plan he would propose. “It’ll be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.”
Catholic League president Bill Donohue said President Obama was speaking “out of both sides of his mouth” during the interview, even though it was obvious that he was not comfortable with the new abortion restrictions and was prodding Congress to change them.
“The manly thing for the president to do would be to state the obvious: his love for abortion rights brooks no compromise. But he won’t do so, choosing instead to play the same old shell game he’s been playing all along. And he is not alone. For months, we have been told that the bill does not cover funds for abortion, yet if that were true, there would have been no need for the Stupak amendment, and no resistance to it.”
He added: “This has been a great moment for the bishops, and for Catholics generally, but the fight is not over. It’s important that those on both sides know exactly who the players are on each team.”
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