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Abortion and the Obama Health-Care Plan: the Essential Facts

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Aug 04, 2009

The following information-- which is not my own work, but the work of astute friends in Washington, DC-- provides all you need to know about the Obama White House plans regarding abortion and health-care reform:

From the latest polls:

  • 51% of Americans self-identify as pro-life (Gallup Poll, June 2009)
  • 61% of Americans say abortion is an important issue and 52% think it is too easy to obtain an abortion in America (Rasmussen Survey, June 2009)
  • 62% of Americans want more limitations placed on abortions and only 36% believe abortion should be generally available (CBS Poll, June 2009).

Elections have consequences:

1) One of President Obama's funding requests, the Financial Services Appropriations bill, allows publicly funded abortion in the District of Columbia. This overturns a 13-year ban on taxpayer-funded abortions in the nation's capital. Amendments to restore the ban were either blocked or defeated by the majority. Currently, over 41% of pregnancies in DC end in abortion, giving the capital city the highest abortion rate in the nation.

2) Senator Durbin's amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations bill cleared the way for taxpayer-funded abortions through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which covers 8 million federal employees. The FEHBP has been repeatedly discussed as an example of what a government-run health care system could be.

3) The House of Representatives voted against the Pence Amendment to the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill. The amendment would have prevented Planned Parenthood or any business doing abortions from receiving taxpayer funds. Last year Planned Parenthood performed over 300,000 abortions. The Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, reports that abortions increase by 30% when taxpayers foot the bill.

4) Through an amendment offered by Senator Lautenberg, the Senate has permanently reversed the Mexico City Policy, which banned taxpayer funds going to international agencies that perform or promote abortions. This gives the existing policy of funding international abortion services-- set by President Obama's Executive Order on January 23-- the force of law. Future presidents will be unable to re-establish the funding ban.

5) Following President Obama's instructions, Congress has completely defunded abstinence education and has designated a minimum of $164 million for contraceptive-only comprehensive sex education. In addition, the Secretary of HHS has a $640 million fund which can be used for family-planning services, if pro-Planned Parenthood Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius so desires. A Zogby poll found that 80% of parents want more abstinence education. Studies prove that abstinence education is more effective in delaying the onset of sexual activity in young people than is comprehensive sex education. CSE has demonstrated no effect on teen behavior. (And do you find that surprising?)

6) President Obama is supporting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which, through its affirmation of "sexual and reproductive health," recognizes an international right to abortion. He is urging the Senate to ratify the treaty, which sets up an international committee to decide whether the United States complies with the treaty's provisions. If ratified, the treaty would take precedence over all federal and state laws dealing with the disabled. The Vatican objects to the inclusion of the phrase "sexual and reproductive health" because it "may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons." Like CEDAW (the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which contains an international mandate for access to abortion services) and CRC (the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which interferes with parental rights over their children) which Obama also favors, this is a treaty that the United States should not ratify.

Heath-care reform:

1) The House version of the health care bill creates an "Advance Care Planning Consultation" for Medicare patients to be counseled on end-of-life decisions. Such consultations would take place every five years, or more frequently if there was a significant change in the individual's health. Two pro-life Congressmen state that "This provision could create a slippery slope for a more permissive environment for euthanasia, mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide because it does not clearly exclude counseling about the supposed benefits of killing oneself."

2) Senator Mikulski (who identifies herself as a Catholic) offered an amendment to the Senate health-care bill that would provide for any service deemed "medically necessary or medically appropriate." When pressed by Senator Hatch, she admitted this would require the coverage of abortion services by health-insurance companies.

3) As currently written, both the Senate and House health care bills would allow federal officials to require the inclusion of abortion coverage in virtually all health plans, as well as taxpayer funding of abortions, and would expand the number of abortion providers in most parts of the country. Abortion services have been defined by legislatures and courts as being included in the term "essential health care." Because abortion would be "essential," it would be necessary to provide access to abortion, thereby mandating subsidizing the practice with taxpayer monies and increasing the number of abortionists and opening more abortion facilities in areas of the country that now do not have them. Catholic health-care professionals would be required to participate in abortions or run the risk of being charged with "patient abandonment," which could mean the loss of their license to practice.

4) The Capps Amendment to one of the health-care reform bills, presented as a compromise, is not: the government-run health plan offered in every region of the country will include whatever abortions are eligible for public funding and will include all abortions if so approved by the HHS Secretary.

5) A provision of the health-care bills establishes the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which would do comparative effectiveness research-- that is, it would determine the most cost-effective treatment for a specific medical condition and would override the doctor's decision for his patient. A government bureaucracy dictating health care decisions has, in England, led to rationing of health care, selection of inappropriate or ineffective treatments for individual patients and premature deaths. When a pro-life Senator offered an amendment in committee to prevent rationing of health care services for the old, the infirm and the chronically ill, it was voted down by the majority. President Obama said recently that "the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for 80% of the total health care bill."

6) The health-care bills call for a new health-benefits advisory committee whose task it will be to define benefits for all health plans in the United States. As it will be an unelected committee named by the Secretary of HHS, there will be no accountability to the citizenry for what the committee determines will be the necessary components of health coverage.

7) Under the current health-care reform bills, there is no conscience clause allowing an individual or an organization with a religious affiliation to opt out of health plans that include an abortion component. The Senate bill contains a very weak conscience clause for those religions that, as a tenet of their faith, do not seek medical care (they would not be required to carry insurance coverage). Catholic institutions and organizations with Catholic affiliations would be forced to offer abortion coverage in their employee health insurance package.

8) The Senate health care bill contains a hidden provision that matches the provisions of the Freedom of Choice Act; it would preempt any state law hindering a woman's access to "essential health services"-- again, a phrase that includes abortion services. Federal health care legislation would overturn the following state laws:

  • 42 states have physician-only laws that limit the practice of abortion;
  • 32 states follow the funding limitations of the federal Hyde Amendment (no taxpayer funding of abortions);
  • 27 states have abortion clinic regulations to protect the health of women;
  • 30 states have informed-consent laws (women receive information about fetal development, fetal pain or the causal link between abortion and breast cancer; or are offered an ultrasound exam);
  • 24 states require a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion;
  • 36 states require some kind of parental involvement: either parental notice (11 states) or parental consent (25 states);
  • at least 5 states have funded abortion alternatives (pregnancy centers, prenatal assistance, adoption promotion).

9) The Hyde Amendment cannot take care of the abortion issue in the various health care bills. Abortion must be explicitly excluded from coverage. Access to abortion also must be explicitly excluded or taxpayer funds will be used to fund abortions and the expansion of abortion services and facilities. This means there must be language in the actual legislation that excludes abortion in "medically necessary or medically appropriate" and "essential" health care.

10) The health-care system in the United States accounts for 14% of our economy. (It equals the size of Great Britain's entire economy.) Any plan to revamp that large a piece of any economy requires thoughtful decision-making, not a rush-to-completion with a majority of the Congress not even reading the legislation. Congressman Conyers said: "What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you've read the bill?" It should be noted that lawyers make up 54% of the Senate and 36% of the House of Representatives.

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