It’s Time, Mr. President

Now that three different health care reform bills have been passed by Congressional committees, the leaders of Congress, together with the Administration, are working to produce a final bill.

It’s time for the President to deliver on his promise, made to the public at a joint session of Congress, that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”Time is starting to run out, because the current situation is that abortion would most definitely be paid for by federal money — by our tax dollars, against our will.

The status quo, right now, is that federal funds are not used to pay for elective abortions. Federal employee benefit plans do not cover elective abortions, and federal health insurance programs for the poor (Medicaid) also do not pay for elective abortions. If individuals wish to have an elective abortion, they must either pay for it with their own money or obtain a private insurance plan that covers elective abortion.

But all of the health care reform bills in Congress would change this status quo. All of the bills define the services that must be covered in health insurance plans by using terminology such as “outpatient services”, “family planning”, “physicians’ services”, “preventive services”, etc. Federal courts have interpreted all of these terms to include abortion. In fact, some of the bills explicitly require federal funding for elective abortions, while others require that at least some federally-subsidized insurance plans cover elective abortions. Every attempt so far to amend these bills to explicitly exclude abortion funding has been defeated.

In addition, each of the bills would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to define what kind of services would be included in the benefits that a private insurance plan must provide. Given the pro-abortion position of the current Administration, there is little doubt that abortion would be included among those benefits.

Unless the President and the leaders of Congress — including the Catholic Speaker of the House — do something, the final health care bill will require federal funding and insurance coverage for elective abortions. And, for the first time, federal law will define elective abortion to be “health care”, even though it’s the only medical procedure that is intended to kill someone.

One of the worst parts of this whole debate has been the level of misinformation coming from the proponents of health care reform, including from the White House itself. We are repeatedly told by Senators, pundits, and the White House spokesman, that we don’t need to worry, because the Hyde Amendment will prevent federal dollars from being spent on elective abortions.

That’s just flat out false, and it’s so obviously false that it’s hard to believe that any reasonably well-informed person could believe it.

The reality is this. The Hyde Amendment limits federal Medicaid funding for abortion to those cases where it is necessary to preserve the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. It will not apply to the pending health insurance reform plans, which will be paid for outside of the normal funding stream that covers Medicaid. Also, the Hyde Amendment is not a permanent federal statute — it is an amendment to the budget that has to be passed every year, and which can be removed at any time at the whim of the majority in Congress (or the leaders who control the amendments that are permitted). This is why each of the pending health care reform bills has to be specifically amended to exclude abortion coverage and payments. Yet every attempt so far to do so has been defeated — by the same people who tell us that we have nothing to worry about.

The bottom line is this — it’s time for the President to show that he’s a man of his word, and for Catholics in Congress to show that their faith means something to them. They must support amendments to exclude abortion from health care reform.

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