WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land joined other radio talk show hosts Sept. 9 in presenting to members of Congress a petition signed by more than 1.3 million Americans opposed to current health care legislation.
Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and host of “Richard Land Live!” and the others delivered the copies of the petition to Rep. John Boehner, R.-Ohio, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, and other members of Congress at a Capitol Hill news conference. All the talk show hosts are with Salem Radio Network.
The petition, which is believed by organizers to be the “largest public policy petition ever delivered to the Congress,” expresses concern about legislation that would move the United States toward government-run health insurance. It calls for freedom to choose health care providers, “patient-centered” care, government aid for the truly needy and insurance that will transfer with a person when he changes jobs.
The number of petition signers “shows that there is tremendous grassroots opposition and concern to a government takeover of a major portion of American health care,” Land told Baptist Press after the news conference.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., said at the news conference his office considers one phone call representative of at least 100 people, meaning the signed petitions represent at least 130 million Americans, he said. The boxes of signed petitions were delivered to the outdoor news conference on gurneys taken from an ambulance.
The delivery of the petitions came about six hours before President Obama was scheduled to deliver a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress urging support for health care reform. The congressional health reform effort, backed by the White House, faced increasing opposition across the country over the summer.
After the news conference, Land said of his desire for Obama’s speech: “I would hope the president would say, ‘You know, I campaigned as a post-partisan president, and so, in that spirit, I am going to scrap what is obviously a plan which does not have the broad support of the American people, and I am going to back to the drawing board with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Congress, and we’re going to come up with a plan that will get the consensus support of the American people.”
In a nine-page analysis released in early August, the ERLC said it is certain a House bill approved in three committees “will lead to diminished health care for most Americans, less choice, higher taxes and unprecedented government intrusion into every level and aspect of society, from business, to education, to marriage, to individual liberty.”
The House version is the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, H.R. 3200.
The ERLC believes health care reform is needed, Land has said, but it is opposed to the measures approved by House and Senate committees. Those proposals would drive other insurers out of business, cause many people to lose their current insurance and control what private plans do, according to the ERLC.
A key concern also is that the House bill explicitly permits funding for elective abortions, which has sparked strong opposition from Land, the ERLC and other pro-life groups. Obama has denied the House bill would underwrite abortions, but pro-lifers have said the president has misrepresented the congressional proposals. Committees in both the House and Senate rejected efforts to exclude abortion funding from health care legislation.
Land has said Obama could easily resolve the matter.
“If, as the president alleges, abortion is not to be considered a covered procedure in any government option, what’s the problem with specifically saying so by excluding it in the legislative language? I would encourage President Obama to pick up the phone and call his party’s leaders in the House and tell them to drop their opposition to specifically excluding abortion as a covered procedure in any proposed legislation,” Land said.
The petition presented by the talk show hosts states: “I, the undersigned citizen of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to stop any increased role of the government in my health care decisions. I also petition the U.S. Congress to protect my right to choose my own doctors and hospitals without delay or denial, to obtain care that is patient-centered, and to have health insurance that is personal, portable and best suits my needs.”
In addition to Boehner and DeMint, other congressional members, all Republicans, speaking at the news conference were Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, Mike Pence of Indiana, Tom Price of Georgia, Pete Sessions of Texas and John Shadegg of Arizona.
The Salem talk show hosts speaking at the news conference were Mike Gallagher, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Janet Parshall and Dennis Prager.
The ERLC’s analysis of H.R. 3200 is accessible online at www.erlc.com.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief. For a Q&A about the controversy over health care and abortion click here.