WASHINGTON (BP)–When Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) equated abortion to having one’s tonsils removed during remarks in a House committee hearing, she struck at the heart of pro-life fears over the new health care reform bill making its way through Congress.
The bill, argue abortion opponents, would establish abortion as an essential medical procedure to be subsidized by tax dollars, leading to situations in which those who find abortion abhorrent would be paying for women to terminate their pregnancies. That is why pro-life leaders and Americans from around the country gathered online July 23 for a national webcast called “Stop the Abortion Mandate,” to express their opposition to the proposed legislation.
The webcast featured 19 pro-life leaders, including SBC ethicist Richard Land, who warned about the dangers of the House bill. More than 36,000 people — apparently more than organizers expected — logged on to view it.
“Washington bureaucrats and pro-abortion lobbyists are working to hijack and exploit the health care debate in an attempt to impose their radical abortion agenda,” said David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, which organized the event. “We felt it was important for people of faith and conscience to come together as a united front to stop this abortion mandate in its tracks.”
During a committee hearing Woolsey, who is pro-choice, expressed frustration that coverage of abortion was even being debated, nothing that the procedure was legal. “We’re not talking about having your tonsils out and whether you can or can’t,” she said.
While the health care bill says nothing about whether abortion must be included as part of coverage, that is exactly the problem, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
“You have to realize that unless Congress specifically prohibits tax funding of abortion, it’s going to be in the plan,” he said.
The legislation calls on a health advisory committee, appointed by President Obama, to determine what benefits must be included in the health plans. Pro-life leaders foresee a grim certainty that Obama will ensure abortion is included, based on the president’s previous comments to pro-abortion advocates. Indeed, when Obama spoke at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in July 2007, he said, “In my mind, reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose.”
Most terrifying to pro-life advocates was a statement by the president to Planned Parenthood that “insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care,” a clear sign to many that Obama plans to expand abortion to all health care plans, including those subsidized by tax dollars.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, warned of high stakes in the ongoing debate.
“They’re going to take money from our pockets and force us to take part in health insurance programs that will subsidize and underwrite the baby-killing industry,” he said. “This will lead to the deaths of millions of unborn children and the wounding of mothers. This is the big one.”
Land railed against the prospect of citizens being forced to fund practices they consider sinful.
“Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical,’” Land said.
Perkins warned that “the moral and ethical dangers that are contained in this plan are downright frightening.”
According to Perkins, under the proposed plan, if a church’s tithes are used to purchase health insurance for its pastor or staff, those funds would purchase a plan that requires abortion coverage, enriching abortion providers.
“The church will then be subsidizing Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s something wrong with that picture.”
In a pre-recorded segment, James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family, warned that the bill, which Perkins labeled the “Planned Parenthood bailout bill,” would deal a heavy blow to the pro-life cause by flushing abortion providers with federal cash.
“If Obama’s health care bill is passed, taxpayer funded abortions will be reality,” Dobson said. “If that happens, the pro-life cause will be set back years. This health care bill will force taxpayers to fund a huge abortion industry bailout.”
Efforts to explicitly exclude abortion from any government-subsidized health plan are currently underway in Congress, spearheaded by pro-life Democrats and like-minded Republicans.
In a June 25 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), 20 Democratic representatives warned, “We cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, praised their efforts when she spoke during the webcast.
“I’m so proud of pro-life Democrats who are really putting up a tough fight,” she said.
Other legislators who did not sign the letter have expressed similar sentiment, and their pressure may finally be coming to bear. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reportedly is trying to forge a compromise to avoid derailing the health care bill completely.
Land urged pro-life Americans to hand-write and deliver letters opposing the current bill to their representatives and senators, noting a Zogby poll that showed 71 percent of Americans are opposed to government-funded abortions.
“It is time for us to insist and demand on government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and stop this cold.”
Webcast organizers encouraged listeners to visit stoptheabortionmandate.com/action to follow up on their concerns about the health care reform bill. A replay of the webcast is available at http://www.stoptheabortionmandate.com.
John Evans is an intern with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.