Will Abortion Kill Health Care Reform?

Is one of the most recent columns over at Vox Nova prophetic? Has Senator Harry Reid set into motion what is to be the death of health care reform because of the abortion issue?

The Senate Majority Leader unveiled the health care legislation yesterday and it is already under attack by pro-life groups because it contains language strikingly similar to the Capps Amendment—the original abortion provisions of the House health care bill until it was removed and replaced upon the passage of the Stupak Amendment which explicitly prohibited the funding of abortion or subsidizing of insurance plans that cover abortions in what would be newly-created health exchanges.

In a previous column, this pseudo-prolife compromise was addressed thoroughly:

In recent months, discussion in conservative circles about abortion coverage in the health care reform bills currently being drafted in Congress has spiked. The Democrats, of course, have denounced this as false. The evidence, from what I have seen, suggests that the legislation currently being pushed forward would in fact create a federally run insurance program that would pay for elective abortions with tax-payer dollars and just as well subsidize the purchase of private insurance plans that would cover elective abortions. Obstinate refusal to accept amendments that absolutely and unambiguously prohibit abortion coverage in the public options and to use tax-dollars to subsidize the purchase of private insurance to the exclusion of such benefits is telling and further reiterates that the legislation would indeed be a drastic break from federal policy in regard to funding of abortion in government-subsidized programs. So far amendments to expressly prohibit government funding of abortion were opposed by Democratic leadership in the House and was defeated in all three committees that considered such legislation.

President Obama and many Democratic leaders believe that essential women’s health care includes elective abortion. This reality is manifest in the Capps-Waxman Amendment proposed and adopted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This amendment to H.R. 3200 authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, currently pro-choice Catholic Kathleen Sebelius, to authorize federal dollars to pay for elective abortions in the “public option,” in other words, at her discretion—and we have no reason to assume she wouldn’t. Moreover, the abortion coverage would not be optional; everyone that enrolls in the public option (and anyone who pays taxes) will contribute to the funding of abortion.

The distinction that abortions will be paid for by “private funds” is a game of intellectual gymnastics. The public plan and government subsidies for private insurance will be managed by the DHHS. The agency that collects premiums from all those who enroll will use that money, which is as much federal and public funds as any direct taxation by the IRS. Abortion providers, under the Capps Amendment, would send their bills to the Department of Health and Human Services drawn from the federal Treasury account. It is inconceivable to imagine that this is not the public funding of elective abortion.

Additionally, the Capps Amendment explicitly authorizes premiums to go to private insurance plans that do cover elective abortions – which are not currently permitted in any of the existing government health programs. This is an indirect funding of abortion, as the funds will flow directly from the government to the insurers—and regardless of how the books are kept, the government paying for the insurance means paying for what the insurance covers. This is no different, in my view, from Title X funding to “clinics” that provide family planning and preventive health services. While Planned Parenthood receives great sums of money through this program, the money is not specifically earmarked for abortion procedures—but the organization that performs them and promotes them receives the funding nonetheless. This is the sort of deceptive thinking behind the Capps Amendment. This is not the status quo; it is a pro-choice victory.

It must also be said that the Hyde Amendment is not a far-reaching federal law, that is, it does not extend to every sphere of the government—it only applies to funds in the annual appropriations bill that go to Department of Health and Human Services. Zero of the funds that would be expended to a public health insurance plan or any federal dollars that would be subsidize private premiums will come through the HHS appropriations bill. Therefore, none of these funds are affected by the Hyde Amendment.

It is clear then that the Democratic leadership has no intentions, to quote the President, “to revoke the existing prohibition on using federal taxpayer dollars for abortions. Nobody is talking about changing that existing provision.” They do not have to do such a thing; it is superfluous. The legislation is crafted so that the funds used for abortion will not come out of federal money governed by the Hyde Amendment.

The non-partisan organization, Factcheck.org, has confirmed that abortion[analyzing the Capps Amendment language specifically], directly or indirectly, will be subsidized in both the “public plan” and in private plans that offer abortion coverage. This is certainly consequential to the whole discussion of health care reform, if not absolutely fundamental.

Essentially, the language in the Senate health care bill is permits funding, directly or indirectly, elective abortion. Therefore, an amendment similar to the Stupak-Pitts amendment would need to be adopted in the Senate in order to resolve this pressing moral issue. If by some chance (I doubt it) that the Senate legislation passes with the current abortion provisions, its differences with the House bill would have to be reconciled, which would almost undoubtedly be the end of the Stupak amendment.  Conversely, if a pro-life amendment is adopted in the Senate similar to that in the House bill, it will be considerably more difficult, politically unwise, and possibly fatal to the final legislation to remove such amendments in conference. 

Regarding the conference, it is not news that congressional Democratic leadership, in response to the pseudo-feminist pro-choice “progressive” Democrats, is considering stripping the Stupak amendment from the final bill because it is “too strict.” President Obama has slyly hinted at this point as well.

Just recently, on MSNBC, Chris Matthews invited Representative Bark Stupak (D-MI) onto his show to discuss health care reform and abortion. The exchange, which proceeded the release of the Senate health care bill, is worth noting:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan put the abortion language into the House version of a health care bill. Pro-choice lawmakers say it‘s too restrictive and vow to strip it. Bottom of Form

Welcome, Congressman Stupak. Thank you for joining us. This has been a hard fight for you. What is your endgame? Do you hope to keep your amendment in the final bill?

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Yes, we would like to keep current law in federal health care. I mean, if we expand federal health care, we think current law, which is the Hyde amendment, which says we do not pay for the benefit of abortion, nor do we pay for health care plans which provide abortion. So, we‘re just going to keep current language.

MATTHEWS: How many members do you have that will fight to the finish against a conference report, for example, that might come back with that language missing?

STUPAK: Well, I haven‘t really gone and counted. And we want to see what a conference report looks like. Everyone keeps telling us we‘re going to keep current language. That‘s what my amendment is. The Stupak amendment is nothing more than current language. And, if they keep current language, I guess we don‘t have to worry about it.

MATTHEWS: But that‘s the problem. How do you find the current language? The current language says no federal money pays for an abortion. The president says no federal money can be used to subsidized abortion.

And, yet, we have never had subsidies before of insurance policies that already exist. Let‘s listen to the president, the way he says it. This was on “Nightline.”


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. And we‘re not looking to change what is a core principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is, federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.


MATTHEWS: Congressman Stupak, how do you read that?

STUPAK: Well, that‘s exactly what the president said. We do not use federal dollars to subsidize abortions. And we do not use federal dollars to subsidize health insurance plans that provide abortion coverage.

Take federal employees, over eight million of them, federal employees. They pay their monthly premium. The federal government also pays part of their federal premium for federal employees’ health benefit package. We have never paid for abortion coverage. Those insurance policies that offer their plans to the federal employees, they cannot use-they cannot have abortion coverage in there.

MATTHEWS: Is there any compromise beyond which we have not reached yet? Is there any way to reach a compromise between you, and, say, the Senate language that they‘re talking about, the Lois Capps approach, which is say that the money will be segregated?

STUPAK: Well-well, that‘s not Lois Capps’ approach. Lois Capps said there must be abortion coverage. It would be covered. You could use money to pay for abortions. Everyone had to pay $1 per month in the public option to pay for abortion coverage.

Capps’ language was-is nothing what they’re talking about in the Senate. The Senate, they’re talking about segregating funds. We’re willing to look at it. That’s been offered in the past. And you know what? When we went to offer to segregate the funds-it’s called the Dornan amendment-we were flatly rejected. They wouldn’t even let us offer the Dornan amendment, which says segregate the funds.

So, I guess, on our side, we’re seeming to wanting it both ways. When it’s in their interest, then, suddenly, they want to segregate funds. But went we ask that there be a segregation of funds, as in the Dornan amendment, we-they just shut us down. They-they’re just-they won‘t give us our amendments.

So, I mean, Chris, there’s a problem here. You know, we-we had a fair-and-square vote. We won. Fifty-five percent of all the representatives said we should not have public funds paying for abortion. So-so, you win on the floor.

Now, suddenly, they want us to come back and compromise. Every time we have asked for something this year, they have said no. Every time we went for a pro-life amendment on every one of the appropriation bills-it’s is the first time ever-they said no, no, no, no.

And then we tried to work it out in health care, they‘ve said no.

And then so they had to give me my amendment, and then we beat them, now suddenly they want to compromise. You know…

MATTHEWS: Well, I understand you‘ve got the upper hand here, Congressman, because you‘ve got the bill through the Congress, the House side the way you wanted it. But what I‘m hearing now from another member of Congress is, there are people on the other side. The pro-choice, the pro-abortion rights side, who now say they won‘t vote for the bill that has your amendment in it.

So you‘ve got two people, two points of view now willing to say, my way or the highway. And is that going to kill health care?

STUPAK: No, I don‘t think it‘s going to kill health care. After all, it’s the pro-life Democrats that really put the health care bill over the top. Forty-one of the members who voted of the 64 who voted for my amendment, Democrats, ended up then supporting the health care bill.

Look, everyone is jostling for position right now. We’ve been consistent. No federal funds for abortion, keep the current law, and let’s do talk about health care, and let’s not have an abortion debate. The sad part about this whole debate is, we never talk about the good things that‘s in the health care bill. We’re all hung up on this abortion issue, which all I did was keep current law. We should be talking about health care.

…a couple of senators and I, we talked today, and trying to see if there‘s some common language. Here’s my amendment, they had my amendment. Well, what is wrong with it? Where do you think the-for the pro-choice people, they say it’s over-broad. Where is it? It‘s the Hyde language, it’s not over-broad.

MATTHEWS: Would you be open to an amendment to the bill that comes out of conference that says, even though no federal spending will go for abortion to support, to subsidize a policy which covers abortion, that insurance companies that now provide that kind of coverage to private customers must continue to offer it? Would you be open to that language?

STUPAK: As long as they pay for that policy 100 percent out of their pocket, I have no problem with that language.

MATTHEWS: So you wouldn‘t mind mandating that so they couldn’t stop offering that coverage?

STUPAK: The law is very clear right now. Insurance companies can offer that benefit all they want. They can offer the abortion coverage all they want. Just don‘t ask us to pay for it. Just don‘t ask the federal government to pay for it. The majority of Americans agree with us. Don‘t use our federal tax dollars.

But insurance companies can provide it. There‘s no-we‘re not restricting them from providing abortion coverage. Just don‘t use our money to pay for it.

Representative Stupak’s points are incredibly telling about Democratic leadership. Shut out pro-life Democrats, don’t include them, demand their votes and give nothing in return. After pro-life Democrats defect, bind your hands, force a vote, and defeat you, then come back kindly asking for a “fair” compromise or plot to remove the Amendment at conference. If this happens, I hope the bill fails and all 64 pro-Stupak Democrats vote “no” killing the bill by a greater margin than it passed.

Admittedly, I was wrong in my analysis. It seems that the pro-life majority somewhat might still remain in the House whereas in the Senate the numbers are lacking. Despite the shortage of pro-life votes, the 60 Democrats in the U.S. Senate have absolutely no room for error whatsoever, particularly with the public option in the bill alienating the few Republicans who would have crossed over and supported the bill.  A few defections, or even one, could doom the legislation. Just today, Senator Nelson has joined Senator Lieberman in threatening to join Republicans who most certainly will attempt to filibuster the health care bill. The foremost objection is abortion though he added, “there are a lot of other things that could keep me from supporting it in the end as well.”

Nelson told the Hill, “We have looked at the language…that language is not language that I would prefer. I think you need to have it eminently clear that no dollars that are federal tax dollars, directly or indirectly, are used to pay for abortions and it needs to be totally clear.” Nelson is by far the most consistent pro-life Democrat in the U.S .Senate and Democratic leadership will need his vote in order to pass the health care legislation. In difficult times, Nelson holding out as he has been might be key to a pro-life victory.

Blogger Jill Stanek reports that she received clarification from Nelson on his stance on the health care bill in regard to abortion, it read:

“To earn my support, the final bill must not use taxpayers’ dollars to fund abortions. My preference is to see Stupak-like language in the final bill. Having said that, I won’t rule out other solutions that could incorporate the principles of Hyde and would ensure no premium subsidies would pay for abortions.”

This, of course, will not sit well with the pseudo-feminist pro-choice Democrats who have been sending coat hangers to Democrats that backed Stupak. They are claiming that Stupak is a move back toward coat hangers and back alley abortions (did it overturn Roe and we don’t know about it?). Please pray for these abortion-minded Americans and for God’s providence as the health care reform legislation either sails toward victory or failure.  The first vote is this Saturday.

14 Responses to Will Abortion Kill Health Care Reform?

  1. ron chandonia says:

    There’s plenty of talk of “compromise” over at Vox Nova and in the liberal Catholic blogosphere generally. In fact, I’d say standmickey is about the only pro-lifer left on Vox Nova, while both Michael Sean Winters at America and Cathleen Kaveny at Commonweal have begun spinning the line that the Stupak amendment is overly restrictive and will have to go. In the end, I expect most of our self-declared Catholic sophisticates will go with NARAL on this one too.

  2. Blackadder says:

    Isn’t Harry Reid supposed to be pro-life?

  3. Eric Brown says:

    He at least still says it. He votes like such on occasion. The higher up he rose, the worse his voting got.

  4. Ron

    Your malicious lies about VN has been noted.

  5. Kevin in Texas says:

    Wow, Henry, overreact much? That sounds very much like a typical comment from Vox Nova, I’d say, where stating the Truth clearly matters less than “saying things nicely” among many of the contributors. Unless, of course, one is conservative! Then all bets are off. I read that blog from time to time and am always utterly frustrated by the level of incivility and “but Republicans are more evil” repetitiveness among many of the commenters there. Indeed at times it does seem to the casual reader of VN that standmickey is the only one who will unabashedly declare himself pro-life, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Everyone else qualifies their statements in ways that read like Doug Kmiec’s defenses of some of President Obama’s more egregious anti-life actions.

    IMO, it’s fine to be a partisan on political matters, but when one starts compromising basic truths of our Catholic faith to support our favored candidates to do so, then a vital line has been crossed.

    And yes, indeed some commenters on the conservative side of the Catholic blog spectrum do it, as well, so please don’t accuse me of being unaware or malicious on that count! 😉

  6. Kevin in Texas says:

    Hi Henry,

    I wanted to clarify something from my previous statement so that you don’t see it as a personal attack on your beliefs, but rather as a comment on your own previous comment here.

    Please re-read your comment and, aside from the demagogic language of “vicious lies” that you used, tell me how on Earth such a comment can NOT be interpreted as something like “we are keeping tabs on you and you’ll be reported to the thought police for badthought”. I know you don’t think this way, so why make a comment that is so over the top and, frankly, Orwellian?

    I’ve often enjoyed your comments and our occasional discussions on blogs like this or Inside Catholic (e.g., your opinions on sci-fi media and books!), but these types of comments, which even Vox Nova contributors themselves have castigated each other for often enough to make it a policy not to allow them generally, are the kinds of head-scratchers that make casual readers think to themselves “why should I engage in discussions with such people or even take them seriously?” For what it’s worth, Henry, I would also say that from what I’ve noticed, yours are not the worst offenders in terms of Vox Nova comments in this regard, but your comment here certainly gives them a run for their money.

    Just a friendly comment, not a personal attack.

  7. Anono says:

    Henry, at least try to make subject and verb agree. Otherwise, you appear both dumb and unpleasant.

  8. Joe Hargrave says:

    I guess Ron won’t be invited to any anti-Amerikkkan picnics 😦

  9. Mike Petrik says:

    While I’m pretty sure that VN conventions as to the spelling of “American” are pretty relaxed, the rule against capitalization is taken seriously.

  10. When Ron said Mickey is the only pro-life blogger at Vox Nova, that is malicious and a lie, since the blog is pro-life. The bloggers are pro-life. Indeed, it is constantly mentioned throughout the blog that one must be pro-life and not merely anti-abortion! Detraction like this is sinful.

  11. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “The bloggers are pro-life.”

    By no stretch of the English language could Gerald Campbell be considered pro-life. It is also odd for pro-lifers to vote for the most pro-abort President in our nation’s history as did the Catholic Anarchist, Tony and MZ.

  12. Kevin in Texas says:

    Hi Henry,

    Thanks for your response. I think you’re over-reaching a bit on Ron’s comment. I don’t want to be bogged down in “tu quoque” arguments, but it’s fair to point out that they are legion on the VN blog, and it’s one reason why I, as a philosophically conservative Catholic man, don’t post on there too much. Whenever I have, the responses are almost without exception negative attacks on me as not being sufficiently pro-life or being a Republican pawn, or ad hominem attacks along the lines of what you call detraction. Both MIchael Iafrate and Morning’s Minion have nearly accused me of being either a cafeteria Catholic or “pro-life” in Republican name only, and thus anti-poor, etc. I also think those writers are out of line, but I don’t see any point in starting a useless war of words unless someone were to directly accuse me of something outright false, and not a matter of differences of opinion.

    For example, Ron opines that many there are not “pro-life” writers on the VN blog. That is his opinion, and very few people would interpret him as saying that they are all thus pro-choicers out there vocally and financially supporting Planned Parenthood and NARAL. You may disagree with Ron’s opinion, but it’s hyperbolic and demagogic to say he is sinning against those writers (to whom he hasn’t even referred by name, by the way). Let’s be realistic in our often strong disagreements as Catholics in these blog threads, but let’s not make bogeymen out of each other over differences of opinion and without cause.

  13. Mike Carlon says:

    Even if abortion is clearly stricken from the bill (i.e. we are 100% affirmed that federal dollars will not fund abortion) the bill should still fail. Here is why.


  14. michealsmith898 says:

    Injustice and the cruelty of the Europe and the USA:-
    There has been a lot of injustice being done to the nations in the history and USA has broken all of the records by adopting a policy which is an open hypocrisy against the palestinian people who have been displaced from their own lands and the ones who been thrown out of the Europe were settled in the Palestine and they name it Israel, i mean this is a barbaric example of Injustice being done by the West, USA and Israel, anyways the creator of this whole unibverse is observing every thing and the time is very soon when a revolution will replace all crule and injst establishments with the righteous and the Just ones. Websites are always helpful in one way or the other, anyways, Violence against women in the Western so-called free societies.
    Well, the real violence against women is the western culture where they are just using women as a social toy and in their society a woman is just like an advertisement symbol for the products to sell, and no social values, no dignity, no honor for the women, and in the name of freedom they are just putting the man-kind on a path of unconsciousness and spiritual destruction, like animals where there is no differentiation between relationships and then pills for sleeping and so on and on and on. That’s really is the wrong concept of the word “Freedom”, but anyways the people on the wrong path are to be humiliated in this world and the world hereafter. Creator of this universe is definitely going to make justice with every one for his/her deeds that have been done by him/her.

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