Deal W. Hudson
October 18, 2010
With the decision of the Ohio Elections Commission to allow a hearing to decide whether the Susan B. Anthony List has falsely represented the voting record of Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), the question is again raised: Was abortion funding authorized by the health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama?
The complaint arose from the SBA List’s use of billboards declaring that Representative Driehaus of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District had voted for taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for the health care bill. If Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA, is found guilty, she could go to jail. Supporting Driehaus’s effort to imprison Dannenfelser are James Salt, policy director of Catholics United, and Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America.
Driehaus, by the way, had made essentially the same characterization of the health care legislation as made by Dannenfelser. On March 19, Driehaus was an original co-sponsor of H. Con. Res. 254, an “enrollment correction,” introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). That resolution would have removed abortion funding from the Senate version of the health care bill.
The language of the final health care bill – “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) – had not changed when both Stupak and Driehaus voted for it and Obama signed it into law. Now, Driehaus is trying to send Marjorie Dannenfelser to jail for precisely the same view of the health care bill as expressed in his support for H. Con. Res 254 – that it authorizes federal tax dollars to be spent on abortion.
Three members of the Ohio Elections Commission voted 2-1 to find “probable cause” to send the Driehaus complaint to a full hearing of the seven commissioners. The date has not yet been set.
The evidence supporting the SBA List is undeniable. In addition to the witness of Driehaus himself (and Stupak), there are the multiple provisions of the legislation itself that authorize the funding of abortions. The best summary is found in the affidavit submitted for last week’s meeting of the Ohio Elections Commission by Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life.
As Johnson points out in his affidavit, the provisions of the Senate version of the bill, ultimately signed into law, contained many of the same abortion funding mechanisms that the Stupak-Pitts amendment of the House bill removed. (There were new, additional problems in the Senate bill.) Stupak, Driehaus, and all those who supported the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House had full knowledge that those provisions had not been removed. Driehaus and Stupak also knew of a similar amendment, offered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which was defeated soundly in the Senate. Interestingly enough, when the Senate bill passed (without removing the abortion authorizations), Stupak and Driehaus, along with Kristen Day, fought hard against its passage in the House. They worked diligently from the time Congress returned in January until March 19th when their objections suddenly, and inexplicably, vanished.
Here, Johnson provides an overview of the abortion funding in the 906 pages of PPACA:
It contained multiple provisions that authorize new programs or expand authorizations for existing programs that are authorized to cover abortion, either explicitly or implicitly. Some of these provisions are entirely untouched by any limitation on abortion in existing law or in the PPACA itself, and others are subject only to limitations that are temporary or contingent.
Those who deny this characterization must have been surprised when three states – Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Maryland – began the implementation of Section 1101 (42 U.S.C. § 18001) creating the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), also known as the “high-risk pool” program. Abortion coverage was explicitly included by these three states in this $5 billion program that provides coverage for up to 400,000 people.
After National Right to Life publicized the abortion coverage, it was determined that the coverage was not excluded either by the president’s executive order or the Hyde Amendment. On July 14, the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement:
Abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.
Nothing in the HHS statement suggested that abortion funding contradicted anything in the executive order, the PPACA, or any pre-existing law, including the Hyde Amendment. In other words, the implementation of PCIP by these three states to include abortion funding had been authorized.
Johnson’s affidavit provides three other examples of abortion authorization in the PPACA, and even these are not exhaustive. In addition to the program of pre-existing conditions, there are federal subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortions, authorization for abortion funding through Community Health Centers, and authorization for inclusion of abortion coverage in health plans administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management.
Defenders of the bill say that under the premium subsidy program only private money will be utilized to pay for abortions. This is merely an accounting trick that still violates the Hyde Amendment. But there is a much bigger problem: The bill states that on the same day the Hyde Amendment is no longer attached to HHS appropriations, federal dollars may be used to fund abortions. This is an explicit authorization of abortion funding, which creates a huge incentive for Congress to put an end to the Hyde Amendment.
Johnson argues that any one of these four examples is sufficient to prove the SBA List was not falsely representing Driehaus’s voting record.
The biggest issue with the legislation, according to Johnson, is not the individual provisions authorizing taxpayer funded abortions, but “the absence of any bill-wide restriction on federal funding of abortion.” In other words, what’s missing is the very amendment offered to the House bill by Stupak, and co-sponsored by Driehaus – the amendment that never became a part of the final legislation.
Those who point to the protections of the Hyde Amendment or the president’s executive order, as does Driehaus, ignore the fact that they were already found inapplicable to abortion coverage in the PCIP. Hyde protections, which must be renewed annually by Congress, are limited to funds appropriated to HHS by the annual appropriations bill, and the health-care legislation contains many new authorizations and direct appropriations entirely unrelated to the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.
Let’s be clear: Those who look at the evidence of abortion funding in the healthcare bill and still demur need to ask themselves if they want to remain guilty of the same political partisanship they so often attribute to others.