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Land: critical time on health care reform

WASHINGTON (BP)–The delay in congressional action on health-care reform provides pro-life Americans and others with a timely opportunity to affect the controversial legislation, Southern Baptist public policy specialist Richard Land said July 24.

President Obama’s push for approval of health-care reform before Congress begins its month-long, August recess met a roadblock July 23, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there would be no floor vote before September. In the House of Representatives, meanwhile, the health-reform proposal has encountered resistance from moderate and conservative Democrats, who have prevented a vote by the Energy and Commerce Committee after two other panels passed it.

The result is what Land says is a critical opportunity for those who oppose the bills promoted by Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress. A major concern for Land and other pro-life advocates is what they describe as the measures’ requirement for abortion coverage in both public and private insurance plans, a mandate that would increase the number of abortions. The proposals also would force health-care professionals to participate in abortions and other procedures they oppose, foes say. Additional criticisms are the increased costs for health care through taxes or premiums and the likelihood of rationing in a system dominated by the government.

The delay through August offers a “kairos” moment, Land told Baptist Press. “Kairos” is a Greek word translated often in the New Testament as “time” but one that refers to an opportune season rather than chronological time.

“The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5 that we are to ‘redeem the time,'” Land said. “The word there is ‘kairos,’ not ‘chronos.’ Some times are more critical than other times. And this is a critical, ‘kairos’ moment.

“The fact there will be no Senate vote before the August recess gives pro-lifers a golden, kairos moment between now and when the Senate and House reconvene,” Land said. “This is the time for all pro-lifers to make their voices heard.

“This is a ‘kairos’ moment that we must redeem for good to stop abortion from being mandated as an essential benefit in any health-care reform that is passed and to protect the consciences of medical practitioners across the land,” he said.

Land urged foes of the bill to make their views known during the recess by attending meetings in their state and district at which their senators or representative are present, delivering hand-written letters to their district offices, and e-mailing, writing and calling their congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

The ERLC and other pro-life organizations say abortion must be explicitly excluded in order for health-care reform to be acceptable. Otherwise, some pro-lifers have said, the current measures would result in the largest expansion of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion by the Supreme Court that legalized the practice nationwide.

Under the proposals, pro-lifers contend, abortion would be mandated in not only the government-run, health-care option but the private insurance plans with which it would compete.

So far, Congress has rejected efforts to make exclusion of abortion from health reform explicit. A Senate committee and two House panels rejected efforts July 15 and 17, respectively, to adopt pro-life amendments.

Land said the ERLC believes health-care reform is needed, but it is opposed to the public health plan component in the current bills. Those proposals would drive other insurers out of business and cause many people to lose their current insurance, according to the ERLC. The current measures also “dictate what private plans can do,” Land said.

The House’s last scheduled day of business before the recess is July 31, although the Democratic leadership has indicated it may stay in session longer. The Senate’s final day before the recess is set for Aug. 7. Both houses will reconvene Sept. 8.

According to the ERLC, concerned citizens may contact their members of Congress in Washington online by going to www.stoptheabortionmandate.com/action.

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.