Reality Check: The Reality Behind the Rhetoric About Abortion in Health Care Reform

Editor’s Note from Erick: Dr. Charmaine Yoest is President and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, the legislative arm of Americans United for Life, the oldest national pro-life organization in America. Americans United for Life defended the Hyde Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court. http://www.aul.org

Recently I met with the White House to discuss pro-life America’s concerns about life issues (end-of-life issues, conscience protection, and abortion) in the proposed health care reform on Capitol Hill.  Between the timing of President Obama’s address to Congress denouncing abortion funding and coverage in health care reform, Secretary Sebelius’s comments on ABC’s This Week implying the President’s desire to push for an explicit exclusion, the new Rasmussen poll which further documented American taxpayers’ opposition to paying for abortion in health care, and our White House meeting, we wanted to take the opportunity to tell the President’s senior staff that pro-life America wants to see explicit language in health care reform banning abortion coverage and funding. 

White House senior officials responded by reiterating the rhetoric from the President’s speech to Congress where he promised no abortion funding in health care reform.


So why are we still concerned?  We’ve seen these claims from President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Harry Reid.  But their rhetorical assurances have not equaled action.  If pro-abortion members of Congress do not intend for the health care reform bills to fund and mandate abortion coverage, then why did they vote against all amendments that would have included explicit language excluding abortion funding and coverage?


These Pro-life Amendments Explicitly Excluding Abortion in the Health Care Bills Were Defeated:


U.S. Senate


·         (1) Senator Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) amendments that would have prevented taxpayer funding of abortion and would prevent abortion clinics from being eligible for federally qualified health center grants;

·         (2) Senator Orin Hatch’s (R-UT) amendments that would have prevented tax-funded abortions unless the life of the mother is endangered or unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest (making the Hyde Amendment permanent);

·         (3) Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) amendments that would have ensured no abortion mandates, prevented abortion clinics from being eligible for federally qualified health center grants, prevented the invalidation of state laws that regulate abortion, codified the Hyde/Weldon conscience protection law, and ensured that Americans have professional ethicists informing any Government-funded medical decisions; and

·         (4) Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) amendment which would have prevented the invalidation of state laws regulating abortion.


U.S. House of Representatives


·         In the Education and Labor Committee:

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion coverage mandate (Rep. Souder) failed (19-29).

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion funding mandate (Rep. Souder) failed (19-29).


·         In the Ways and Means Committee:

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion coverage mandate (Rep. Johnson) (failed 18-23).

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion funding mandate (Rep. Cantor) (failed 19-22).


·         House Energy and Commerce Committee:

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion coverage mandate (Reps. Pitts, Stupak, and Blunt) (failed  29-30).

o    Amendment to prohibit the abortion funding mandate (Reps. Stupak and Pitts) (failed 27-31).


The rhetoric of saying abortion is not covered in health care reform is quite different than the REALITY on Capitol Hill. 


The reality is that even if the language  in the final health care bill that President Obama signs does not appear to include abortion coverage and funding, we know what happens next because we’ve seen it before.   Recent history has shown through Medicaid that the courts and administrative agencies will interpret abortion as falling within several ‘mandatory categories of care’ even if abortion coverage and funding is not explicitly included in the bill.


But you may ask: doesn’t the Hyde Amendment protect taxpayers from having to fund abortions? 


Not so. The Hyde Amendment (which, by the way, is actually quite vulnerable and not permanent law) applies only to programs funded through the LHHS Appropriations Bill.   Please view this downloadable chart on AUL Action’s health care reform Web site RealHealthCareRespectsLife.com which demonstrates that without an explicit, proactive exclusion of abortion from the health care bills, administrative agencies will impose an abortion mandate just as they did with Medicaid, and courts will hold that an abortion mandate is required.


Today is an important day for pro-life America.


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s bill, which emerged after AUL Action’s White House meeting, is being framed by its supporters as a “compromise.” Unfortunately, as AUL Action’s legal team has documented, it’s severely compromised. The AUL Action legal team has provided a memo on the bill, along with a daily update covering the bill’s “mark-up,” — the bill in its current state would, among other things, require the government to spend $6 billion establishing co-ops that could cover abortion; enable individuals to receive refundable, advanceable tax credits to purchase health insurance that covers abortion, and require at least one plan in each premium rating area to cover abortion.


Pro-life amendments to be voted on in the Senate Finance Committee:

Abortion Mandate

Hatch Amdt. #C14 (355): Prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under this Mark from being used for elective abortions and plans that cover such abortions.  

Enzi Amdt. #12 (426): To ensure that mandates on abortions are prohibited.  

Enzi Amdt. #C13 (427): To ensure that abortions are not paid for with federal funds and for the purchase of supplemental abortion coverage without federal funds.

Enzi Amdt. #C14 (428): To ensure state abortion laws and regulations are not preempted by provisions in the underlying bill.  

Conscience Protections

Enzi Amdt. #C15 (429): To ensure that conscience protections are applied. 

Hatch Amdt. #13 (354): Non-discrimination on abortion and respect for right of conscience.

Physician Assisted Suicide

Hatch Amdt. #C12 (353) [Accepted in Concept]: Prohibits federal funds under this Bill from being used to pay for assisted suicide and offers conscience protections to providers or plans refusing to offer assisted suicide services.

The abortion lobby is using health care reform to try to end-run around the Hyde Amendment which has been a thorn in their side. Their ultimate objective is to define abortion as basic health care, which Americans do not support. I encourage everyone who cares about the sanctity of life to contact Congress and encourage them to vote for the proposed pro-life amendments