Abortion, Healthcare, and the President’s Priorities

Deal W. Hudson
Published November 16, 2009

Two days after the Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed, President Barack Obama made a statement that appeared to accept a ban on abortion funding in health care reform.

“I laid out a very simple principle, which is, this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill, and we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.” (Obama to ABC News, 11/10/09)

However, most people did not notice what he said next, perhaps because it was couched in language so cryptic and coded that they assumed it also affirmed the amendment.

“There needs to be some more work before we get to the point wherewe’re not changing the status quo on abortion,” Obama added. “And that’s the goal.” (Emphasis added.)

The innocent and guileless listener would assume the “status quo” was the ban of federal funding on abortion as represented by the Hyde Amendment. Not so, it turns out.

In a Sunday CNN interview, David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political advisor, argued the Stupak-Pitts amendment goes beyond the “status quo” and, as a consequence, Obama is “going to work with the Senate and the House to try and insure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed.”

Just how did the amendment change the “status quo”? Most observers of the debate over abortion funding saw it as the application of the Hyde Amendment banning government funding of abortion in the health care bill.

The pro-abortion lobby claims that Stupak/Pitts would prevent private insurance companies that accept government subsidies from covering abortion. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, said in her statement:

The Stupak/Pitts amendment would result in a new restriction on women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premium with their own money.

This claim was found to be false before the vote on Stupak-Pitts by the non-partisan Politifact.com: Those paying the insurance premium with their own money, without federal subsidies, “are not barred in any way from obtaining abortion coverage, even if they obtain their insurance from the federally administered health exchange.”

Yet the “status quo” argument continues to be used by Obama, Axelrod, and the pro-abortion Democrats who want abortion funding put back in the bill. Those who thought that the pro-abortion ideology could be pried apart from the desire to make health insurance more widely available have now been purged of their idealism.

Two Catholic observers who were not fooled for a moment were Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, and Doug Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life. Neither minced words: “Obama spoke out of both sides of his mouth in his ABC News interview,” said Donohue in his statement. Doug Johnson asserted, “The phoniness of Obama’s claim that he has been trying to preserve the “status quo” on abortion policy should be evident to any observer by now.”

What to make, then, of Obama’s original statement, “I laid out a very simple principle, which is, this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill”? He was saying the health care bill was an “abortion bill” if it changed the “status quo.” Since Obama and his pro-abortion colleagues see the addition of Stupak-Pitts as surpassing the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, it is now an “abortion bill.”

Obama’s mind works exactly the opposite of the pro-life mind, and his language has to be parsed from the perspective that access to abortion is desirable – that it is good. When Obama said the health care bill was “not an abortion bill,” some may have thought that he was promising not to create unprecedented federal funding for abortion. The mistake is assuming Obama shared the view that such an outcome would be undesirable. But that’s not the case at all.

I have resisted coming to the conclusion that Obama cares more about assisting the aims of the pro-abortion lobby than truly making health insurance available to more people. There’s no need to resist any longer.

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