WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity has expressed disappointment with President Obama’s health-care reform proposal, saying it opposes the plan in its current state.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced its opposition in a two-page analysis released after the president unveiled his plan prior to a Thursday health-care summit. The White House-hosted meeting will bring together Democratic and Republican leaders and members of Congress with Obama and officials in his administration for six hours of discussion.
In order to gain the ERLC’s support, Obama and supporters of his plan must begin by including language that bars federal funding of elective abortions, ERLC President Richard Land and two ERLC staffers said in the analysis. They called for adoption of an amendment included in the House of Representatives’ health-care bill. That language, offered by Reps. Bart Stupak, D.-Mich., and Joseph Pitts, R.-Pa., maintains the current prohibition on abortion funding.
“We had hoped for a truly bipartisan, market-based approach that would have preserved the private nature of our health care system,” said Land and Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research, and Doug Carlson, manager for policy communications, in the ERLC document. “Unfortunately, all the president has proposed is a tweaked version of the bill already passed by the Senate. Essentially, President Obama has used the Senate-passed bill as the base text for his proposed health care reform plan, added some material from the House-passed bill, and sprinkled in a few additional ideas.”
Commenting on the White House proposal, Land told Baptist Press, “The president’s attempt to reconcile the Senate and House versions of ObamaCare results in a bill that is far more expensive than the Senate bill and provides totally inadequate protections against taxpayer funds being used to pay for abortions….
“To use a phrase from the last presidential campaign, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.’ This pig, ObamaCare, needs to be turned into bacon. The Congress and the president, in a bipartisan way, need to start over and address incrementally the issues that need reform in our health-care system, starting with tort reform and 50-statewide competition for insurance companies,” Land said.
Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership have been stymied in their efforts to pass health-care legislation since the House and Senate approved markedly different versions — the House in November and the Senate on Christmas Eve. Congressional leaders have been unable to negotiate a compromise in the face of growing public opposition to their plans.
The president’s plan maintains the Senate bill’s approach to funding abortion, according to the ERLC analysis. It would provide federal subsidies to insurance plans that cover elective abortion and likely will result in the requirement that all plans that are subsidized cover abortion, the ERLC said. “Consequently, people will be faced with the decision of turning down significant government subsidies of their premiums or funding abortions in their health insurance plans,” according to the ERLC document.
In addition to abortion funding, the ERLC’s other concerns regarding Obama’s plan include:
— A funding increase of $11 billion over five years for community health centers, including Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider.
— Fines for individuals who refuse to buy health insurance and for companies that fail to provide such insurance for their employees.
— Greater bureaucratic involvement by the government in health care.
— An expanded Medicaid roll.
The ERLC analysis commends some aspects of the president’s proposal, including its exclusion of a government-managed “public option,” as well as its ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
In unveiling the president’s plan Feb. 22, the White House said it “will make health care more affordable, make health insurers more accountable, expand health coverage to all Americans, and make the health system sustainable, stabilizing family budgets, the Federal budget, and the economy.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said, however, Obama “has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected. This new Democrats-only backroom deal doubles down on the same failed approach that will drive up premiums, destroy jobs, raise taxes, and slash Medicare benefits.”
He also said the Republican approach would prohibit federal funds for abortion. “Health care reform should be an opportunity to protect human life — not end it — and the American people agree,” Boehner said in a written statement
Stupak, who has continued to champion the pro-life cause in health-care reform despite his party’s support of abortion-rights, said Wednesday the abortion-funding provision in the president’s plan is “a radical departure from where we are.” Obama’s inclusion of the Senate’s support of funds for abortions “is unacceptable to us in the House and a lot of members in the Senate,” he told Fox News.
Stupak has been told there will be no opportunity to amend the bill once it reaches the House floor, he said.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) also announced its opposition to Obama’s proposal. “None of President Obama’s proposed changes [diminishes] any of the sweeping pro-abortion problems” in the version passed by the Senate, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said in a written statement.
The ERLC analysis of the president’s health-care plan is available online at http://erlc.com/article/understanding-the-presidents-health-care-reform-plan/.
Also on its website, the ERLC has published “Fifteen Principles for Successful Health Care Reform” at http://erlc.com/documents/pdf/20091110-fifteen-principles-final.pdf.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.