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FIRST-PERSON: Let your voice be heard about abortion funding

DALLAS (BP)–CBS News Anchor Katie Couric asked President Obama last month whether he advocates federal funding of abortion in a health care plan public option. The president answered that he’d “rather not wade into” the issue, and he mentioned a “tradition” of excluding funding for abortions but did not say whether or not he supports that tradition.

In recent days, the Obama administration created a website to try and debunk the opposition’s arguments against current plans for health care reform. Notably missing from the site is any mention of the criticism that the plan will lead to federal funding of abortion.

President Obama has left it to Congress to formulate legislation to enact his priority for national health care. House and Senate leaders, when asked whether abortion will be funded in any plan they pass, have attempted to get away with similarly vague responses. But the real answers are rising to the surface. In a meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) smoked the truth out of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). Hatch asked Mikulski whether an amendment she had offered to the Kennedy health care bill would force insurance companies to contract with abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

She somewhat stammered through her answer, saying, “It would include women’s health clinics that provide comprehensive services and under the definition of a women’s health clinic, it would include, uh, it would include uh, Planned, uh Parenthood clinics…. It does not expand in any way expand a service.” (Perhaps not, but Planned Parenthood already does plenty of abortions.) The senator continued, “In other words, it doesn’t expand, um, uh, nor mandate abortion service.”

Hatch then observed, “No, but it would provide for them.”

Mikulski responded, “It would provide for any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate.” Mind you, Planned Parenthood would be doing the “deeming.” That being the case, Hatch said he’d have a tough time supporting the Mikulski amendment and asked for some language about not including abortion services. Mikulski was not willing to make such a change.

Mikulski’s amendment passed the HELP committee, with all Republicans and Democrat Robert Casey (D.-Pa.) opposing it.

Three House committees have also passed national health care bills, and in all versions, attempts to exclude abortion funding have been defeated. One amendment would have prevented abortion coverage in private and public plans. It actually passed in the Energy and Commerce Committee, but the committee chairman, Democrat Henry Waxman of California, took advantage of a parliamentary procedure and voted for the amendment so he could call a revote. A congressman who had skipped the first vote opposed the measure. And Tennessee Democrat Bart Gordon, part of the Blue Dog coalition, switched his vote, killing the pro-life amendment.

Earlier, another member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Lois Capps of California introduced what she called a “compromise” amendment. The measure requires that every area of the country include a health care plan that includes abortion and one that does not. It seeks to soften the blow with an accounting gimmick by which a public plan can cover abortions as long as the abortion is paid for out of enrollees’ premiums. Pro-life leaders call it a bookkeeping scheme that really amounts to an abortion edict. The Capps Amendment, or something like it, is meant to allow Democrats from conservative districts to claim they oppose an abortion mandate as they vote for heath care reform that will, in reality, provide unrestricted funding of abortion.

As the House was preparing to take up health care reform several weeks back, 19 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, insisting that abortion be excluded from any “government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.” This is in keeping with current policy where federal funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape and incest or where the life of the mother is threatened.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says the Senate’s (yet unnumbered) Kennedy bill, and the health care legislation advocated by House leadership, would result in “the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe vs. Wade” and would mean “federal funding of abortion on a massive scale.”

Thomas Jefferson once said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” In the battle over federal funding of abortion that has been waged since Roe made it legal, pro-lifers have largely prevailed. During what’s left of this August congressional break, lawmakers must be convinced that this nation is repulsed by taxpayer-funded abortion.
To contact your representative or senator, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or click here. Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody Radio Networks. She also serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas.

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  • Penna Dexter