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March 5, 2010

Pro-Life Leaders Fight Health Care over Taxpayer-funded Abortion

Updated: Friday, March 5, 12:30 p.m.

President Obama, calling for a vote on health-care legislation by mid-March, has upped the stakes for his presidency over so-called Obamacare, which prolife leaders say will provide for the biggest expansion of abortion services in American history. (See analysis of the Senate and House bills below.)

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, put out an urgent video message early this morning and is featured in the Wall Street Journal's Friday edition.

Here are excerpts from Yoest's commentary:

It's now becoming clear that Barack Obama is willing to put everything on the table in order to be the president who passes health-care reform. Everything, that is, except a ban on federal funding for abortion.... The president's latest proposal mirrors legislation that has passed the Senate, which doesn't include a Hyde Amendment, and would inevitably establish abortion as a fundamental health-care service for the following reasons:

• It would change existing law by allowing federally subsidized health-care plans to pay for abortions and could require private health-insurance plans to cover abortion.
• It would impose a first-ever abortion tax—a separate premium payment that will be used to pay for elective abortions—on enrollees in insurance plans that covers abortions through newly created government health-care exchanges.
• And it would fail to protect the rights of health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions.

A handful of prolife Democrats hold the fate of this legislation in their hands. A new poll indicates, if these incumbents vote for Obamacare, many voters in their districts will be sufficiently unhappy to vote them out in the November general election.

Michigan Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak, has been the most visible of these conservative Democrats. So far, he's not waffled that clear language be included to ban abortion services under the legislation's health care provisions.

If you have an appetite for understanding how House Speaker Pelosi will get Obamacare passed. Here's a blog entry that explains the latest strategy and counter-strategy on Capitol Hill. How Pelosi Will Game the Stupak 12.

Friday, noon, update:

CT has received a copy of a two page document from a law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, Dr. Timothy S. Jost. In his document, he provides this analysis:

There are only four perceptible differences between the Senate and House bill in their treatment of abortion.

o First, the House bill under the Stupak amendment provides that if a health plan is purchased using federal support, abortion coverage must be purchased with private funds under a separate supplemental policy. The Senate bill also prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase abortion coverage, but takes a different approach. If federal premium credits or cost-sharing reduction payments are used to purchase a health plan, the plan must collect a separate privately-paid premium to cover the abortion coverage from the enrollee or enrollee’s employer. The amount of the premium must fully cover the cost of the abortion coverage and may not take into account savings to the plan from the plan not having to pay for prenatal care, delivery, or postnatal care when abortions take place. The funds must be kept in a separate account used solely for abortion coverage. State insurance commissioners must ensure that health plans comply with the segregation requirements in accordance with generally acceptable accounting principles and circulars on funds management from the OMB and GAO. Concern has been expressed that plans might use accounting practices that, despite this oversight, allow them to subsidize abortion coverage from federal funds, but if they want to do this for some reason, they could also do it under the House bill. Requiring a separate abortion policy rather than a separate premium is an administrative technicality. It merely requires one more piece of paper. It has also been argued that employees of small businesses will be forced by their employers to pay for abortion coverage through the exchange, but under section 1312 of the Senate bill, an employer cannot choose a health plan for an employee, employees are free to choose their own plan within a tier of coverage specified by the employer. No one will have to purchase abortion coverage under the Senate bill who does not want it, just as under the House bill.

o Second, the Senate bill goes beyond the House bill in permitting the states to absolutely prohibit the sale of plans through the exchanges that cover abortion. That is, under the Senate bill, a state may prohibit not only plans that receive a public subsidy from covering abortion, they may also prohibit plans that do not receive a public subsidy but are sold through the exchange from covering abortion. The CBO estimates that 6 million Americans will purchase unsubsidized plans through the exchanges. The House bill does not explicitly allow the states to do this.

o Third, the Senate bill, but not the House bill, prohibits plans from advertising the separate cost of their abortion coverage. This provision is presumably intended to keep plans from competing with each other by making abortion coverage attractive.

o Fourth, the Senate bill, but not the House bill, provides for $25 million a year in grants to the states for assisting pregnant and parenting teens and women. These grants would go to institutions of higher learning, high schools, and community centers that offer pregnant and parenting teens and women the support that they need to get an education and to function.

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Click here to add your voice to the debate via the White House comment line.


I occasionally find myself confused by the intent of CT’s blog postings. In this case I find myself asking:
1) Are your trying to report what UAL is saying, with little attention to it veracity or accuracy? And with that intent expecting the reader to work through the accuracy of the UAL statements unassisted?
2) Or are you simply posting the author’s personal political views, and have no standard beyond a myriad of ideological blogs available on the internet? And should I always assume that when I read a CT blog, there may be a higher emphasis on persuasion (through declarative statements) than the service of providing factual accuracy.
3) Or are you attempting to provide ‘balanced’ coverage, without obligating yourself to analysis of the quotes you report?
In this posting, the comments of UAL are offered succinctly, directly and unquestioned, except for an ‘update’ that is long and comparatively dense. And to make CT’s intent less clear, the Main Blog page stops display of the story after a full rendering of quotes by UAL, without any significant indication of (perhaps) corrective analysis to follow later.
For the reader of the complete blog entry and update, there exists a significant discrepancy of the facts between the two portions of the postings. Yet, there appears to be no attempt to explain, comment or assist the reader. Is an ‘update’ simply used to absolve the author of responsibility to post accurate data? Or are updates used to discredit biased (at least heavily assumption driven) comments, without offending certain readers?
My own reading of information provided on the UAL website would seem to indicate that the update posting (comments by Dr. Jost) is the more accurate of the statements presented. That is not to say that UAL does not have legitimate concerns that may need to be addressed. But it would appear that CT could help its readers understand that generalization and presumptive language is being used to ‘rouse the troops’ at the expense of a full telling of factual details.
It is a shame we don’t value honest dialogue above our causes…

"which prolife leaders say will provide for the biggest expansion of abortion services in American history."

-- Back in the reality-based community, Charmaine Yoest is totally busted by Professor Jost's detailed explanation of the actual language of the two HCR bills' abortion coverage language. Good to see CT is acknowledging this reality even if it can't quite bring itself to retract the earlier wild misstatements by the so-called "prolife leaders."

This has always been a highly technical dispute between two proposals, each drafted by a prolife Congressman: one by Bart Stupak (House bill) and one by Ben Nelson (Senate bill). Speaker Pelosi had long ago agreed to keep the status quo represented by the Hyde Amendment: no federal funding for abortion, but also no restrictions on a woman's ability to use her own money to pay for a legal medical procedure. The question was, for insurance plans that include BOTH federal subsidies AND private premium payments, how to keep that status quo. The original House bill had one attempt at maintaining the status quo that many prolife Congresspeople had agreed to. Stupak didn't think it had gone far enough and he offered his amendment, which passed.

In the Senate, Ben Nelson, longtime solid prolifer, offered (and passed) what Prof. Jost's analysis makes clear is a slightly different alternative, which also added the funding for the program for pregnant and parenting teens. Yes, he also made the bad judgment of negotiating for the special deal for Nebraska that's been rightly condemned, but what makes anyone think that this solidly prolife Senator drafted language that amounted to "the biggest expansion of abortion services in American history"?

Perhaps this clear, simple analysis by Prof. Jost will make folks think twice before believing the propaganda spread by some prolifers in the future.

I agree with Rich - it's hard to tell where CT is coming from at times.

Sometimes I thing you're trying to present information of evangelical interest without bias - other times the language could be straight from Glenn Beck. Which is it?

The correction in this article would seem to indicate we'd be BETTER off with the Senate bill, but that completely goes against the main thrust from the AUL.

Come on guys (and girls) - you need to up your game here, make your mission clear, and improve the quality of the posts - or there's just no purpose to visiting the site.

Rick and Rich,
The way I see it, the point of CT Politics is not to stake out a partisan position, but to provide newsworthy information from an Evangelical point of view. Reporting on perspectives from both AUL's Chairmaine Yoest and Dr. Jost is not confusion, but balanced reporting; before the update, the post was rather biased. I'd like to see more posts like the updated version (which encourages the reader to think for herself) and less like the original (which uses CT as a mouthpiece of the Religious Right).

And Christian Lawyer,
For what it's worth, before reading the update I was firmly in favor of the Stupak Amendment, but now I find the Senate version of the bill acceptable, at least on strictly pro-life issues. I'd encourage CT to come out with better articles the first time around and, as Rick suggested, "present information of evangelical interest without bias."

Brendan: "...now I find the Senate version of the bill acceptable..." But at one time you didn't find it acceptable, and now you do. Well and fine. But some still don't. Why not accomodate them? What's the harm in doing that? If it will get people to sign off on it, you'd think the dems would do that and not give blue dog dems and repubs concerned about abortion a reason not to sign.

Well sure Dan, I'd also like the final bill to do more to promote the cause of life. Unfortunately, the Dems leadership is hat-in-hand with NARAL, NOW and other hardline pro-choice groups, so Blue Dogs are in the political dog house right now. Also, all "pro-life" compromise amendments will be killed by Republicans in the Senate to impede final passage of the bill. No Republicans will vote for the final bill no matter how pro-life it is; they are betting everything on killing it to strategically advance their political interests this Nov. 2 (election day).
So the question is, is the healthcare bill tolerably enough pro-life to pass? I say yes on that score, (though there might be other reasons to reject it).

Seems like the Congress and a strong executive branch are more trouble than they are worth. Maybe the states ought to take care of their own health insurance issues and let the feds take care of more basic constitutional duties. Already states are mobilizing against the feds requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.