Abortion Debate in Healthcare Overhaul
Special Report - August 10, 2009
Congressional representatives home during the August recess are getting an earful from constituents regarding the plethora of healthcare overhaul proposals being floated by Congress and the White House. Prolifers are particularly concerned over the possible inclusion of abortion coverage mandates and the lack of conscience protections for health care providers.
President Obama continues to press for a reform of the American health care system that includes a larger role for government as a provider of health insurance. The proposals currently under consideration are either silent on the issue of abortion or require coverage for abortions in both the proposed government and private insurance plans. They do not include conscience protections and without such protections, the proposed reforms would force doctors who participate in those plans to perform abortions. To date, conscience protections are not included in the proposals and none of the proposals expressly prohibit funding for abortions. Amendments to include either or both provisions have failed in both the House and Senate. On July 9, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote 1211 to add a provision requiring abortion groups like Planned Parenthood to be included in any health insurance networks the bill would create.
Proponents argue that the claims are exaggerated since the bill drafts do not specifically mention abortion, but Tom Grenchik, director of the U.S. bishop’s Pro-Life Secretariat pointed out in an August 7 article “that the Medicaid statute doesn’t mention abortion either, but it was funding 300,000 abortions a year in the 1970s until we put a stop to that with the Hyde amendment.”
The federal government has longstanding policies, including the Hyde amendment, against instituting federal mandates or funding for abortion, although recent legislation has begun chipping away at those policies. The proposed reforms would essentially eliminate both federal and state limitations on abortion funding and procedures. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a press release found it ironic that “committee Democrats would consider taxpayer-funded abortions to be a health care benefit since the baby gets no health care benefit from abortion. President Obama and the Democratic leadership claim they want to ‘reduce’ abortion, but you don’t reduce abortion by funding it.” He continued, “The piecemeal deconstruction of the wall of separation that has protected the American people from complicity in the national and international abortion trade, through their hardearned tax dollars, is accelerating every day.”
Votes on any health care plan have been postponed until after the August recess as conservative Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to oppose current proposals, bolstered by heightened constituent opposition to overhaul of the health care system. However, President Obama’s emphasis on passage and large Democrat majorities in both chambers make passage probable.
Still, recent polls show waning support among the American public for the current proposals. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that 36 percent of voters think the plan will hurt the quality of their care, while over 21 percent anticipate an improvement in quality. By a margin of 4139 percent, voters think the proposed plan will hurt the nation’s health care system and 72 percent think Obama will not be able to pay for the proposed plan.
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