Why It’s Absurd to Deny Obama’s Healthcare Bill Contains Abortion Funding

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.

Have the Bishops Become Tea Party Republicans?

Deal W. Hudson
November 24, 2014

“Since most of the Catholics in Congress are both Democrat and pro-abortion it will be a hard sell, and the dissident Catholics in Congress are not used to getting the hard sell from USCCB lobbyists.”

I’M SURPRISED at how few Catholics pundits have noticed the recent letter sent to members of Congress from the USCCB asking that Congress add “must-pass funding legislation” language to the upcoming continuing resolution that would fund the federal government until its next session.

In other words, the Catholic bishops are willing to risk a government shutdown in order to bring about a showdown with the Obama administration and the Democrats on the funding of abortion.

This strategy, needless to say, sounds both Republican, and dare I say it, the Tea Party.  These are hardly associations that most bishops, and especially the USCCB, have usually avoided.

At the time of the Obamacare debate, the Catholic bishops, speaking through the USCCB, urged defeat of the legislation because of its abortion coverage, a fact disputed by the Obama Administration along with Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Administration; Sister Simone Campbell, president of Network; the Nuns-on-the-Bus; and the National Catholic Reporter.

The voice rather tepid voice of the bishops was hardly to be heard over the media attention given to Sisters Keegan and Campbell.

The bishops voice could have been louder, but was not due to two factors 1)  the bishops had advocated some form of universal care for over 20 years, and 2) USCCB staff such as John Carr were very cozy with the White House and trusted Obama’s promises regarding abortion funding made to then USCCB president, Cardinal Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan, to his credit, was the first to speak publicly about the broken promises when it became apparent to everyone but John Carr and company that Obama and the Democrats has no intention to forsake the abortion funding demanded by its constituency.

As reported by LifeSite News, the reason for the sudden change in tone and tactics is what’s about to happen in — surprise again! — California, headed by that Jesuit-trained elderly statesman of the Catholic left, Gov. Jerry Brown.

“The California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical abortions immediately. Even churches are not exempt from funding abortions.”

California’s decision is being challenged in court by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The letter sent to Congress noted that the state of Washington and some other states are moving in the same direction, creating an “the increasingly urgent need for Congress to protect rights of conscience with regard to the taking of innocent human life.”

The bishops point out correctly that California’s action violates the Weldon Amendment which has been approved by Congress annually since 2004 forbidding “governmental bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage.” Since enforcement of Weldon has become so lax, the bishops urge Congress to pass the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) passed by the House in 2002.

Over the past two years, new leadership has been put in place at the USCCB, both at the staff level and that of the bishops themselves. It will be interesting to see whether there will be any serious effort on the part of the USCCB to persuade members of Congress to add “must-pass funding legislation.” Since most of the Catholics in Congress are both Democrat and pro-abortion it will be a hard sell, and the dissident Catholics in Congress are not used to getting the hard sell from USCCB lobbyists.

My guess would be that we will not hear much more about it — but I hope I am dead wrong.

Exposing Biden’s Lie About the HHS Mandate

Deal W. Hudson
Published October 16, 2012

It was hard to get much done on Friday due to the flurry of phone calls, emails, and texts concerning the USCCB statement about Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.

Everyone was asking the same thing, “Where is Biden’s name? It’s not there!”

In case you missed the debate, at the end the moderator asked each candidate, both Catholic, to say something “personal” about their faith and the abortion issue in particular. Inevitably, the topic of the HHS mandate came up, and Vice President Biden told a whopper of a lie – that the mandate will not force any Catholic to pay for contraception.

The USCCB statement quotes Biden verbatim but does not mention who the statement is intended to correct, Biden or Ryan. It begins, “Last night, the following statement was made… ” Anyone reading this press release, unless they were familiar with last night’s debate, would be left in the dark regarding just “who” misrepresented the impact of the HHS mandate on religious institutions, a stark violation of religious liberty.

That the USCCB went to the trouble of correcting a seemingly anonymous debater defies common sense, but those of us who have been through several political seasons are used to surprises when it comes to the conference, chanceries, parishes, and a presidential campaign. We’ve already dealt with the problem we’ve seen in state conferences issuing alphabetical voter guides – they contradict what the bishops themselves wrote in the “New Introduction” to “Faithful Citizenship”.

Is there a good reason why the USCCB statement would leave Biden’s name out? There is certainly precedent for bishops’ publicly correcting Biden, both as a senator and as vice president. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, wrote an article for Newsmax entitled Ryan, Biden and the Bishops listing 15 bishops who have publicly corrected Biden when he has misrepresented the Catholic faith.

Yet, here Vice President Biden had an audience of 51 million people for his debate with Paul Ryan. Biden’s lie about the HHS mandate potentially has a huge impact on how Catholic voters view the Obama/Biden ticket and the record of their first term.

Biden’s appearance in 2008 on “Meet the Press” was seen by approximately 3 million people, and 15 bishops publicly corrected him. Forty-eight million more people saw and heard Biden deny the violation of religious liberty that the bishops themselves devoted two full weeks to in the summer with their “Fortnight for Freedom”. Yet, the USCCB cannot bring itself to utter his name.

Perhaps there will be other bishops who will fill the void and speak his name aloud saying, “Vice President Biden did not tell the truth about the HHS mandate, and while I am at it, he also spoke incorrectly about the proper role of the Catholic faith in public life.”

But, there is an even stronger reason why the USCCB shirked its responsibility by leaving out Biden’s name. Biden is the Vice President of the United States. He is the second ranking member of the Obama administration, an administration that announced a policy violating the religious liberty of Catholic institutions, causing more than forty of those institutions, including a number of dioceses, to bring law suits against the government. (When Ryan asked Biden about those law suits he was promptly interrupted by moderator Martha Raddatz.)

Father Groeschel Reflects on the Healthcare Vote

Deal W. Hudson
Published March 25, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Rev. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., on the phone from his Trinity Retreat Center in Larchmont, New York. Father Groeschel is recovering from a nasty cold, and we were speaking about other matters, but I couldn’t resist keeping him on the phone long enough to hear his thoughts on the health-care vote.

This is a priest who has worked with, and for, the poor all his life. Given the prominence of the health-care reform proponents’ appeals to “helping the poor” during the many months of debate, I was interested in the opinion of the nationally known and prolific 77-year old Franciscan. (One of his latest books is After This Life: What Catholics Believe about What Happens Next.)

I remember the many times Father Groeschel has spoken to me about the wisdom of the poor, even their happiness. I still remember my puzzlement and amazement while listening to his stories of friends from the worst streets of the South Bronx.

On the subject of health-care reform, Father Groeschel had this to say: “Well, there is no doubt we should be concerned about the 30 million Americans without health insurance, but there were so many other ways to address that.” He went on to speculate that the Democrats would pay a big political price for forcing legislation with abortion funding through the Congress against the wishes of the Catholic bishops.

Father Groeschel had good things to say about the consistency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ message to the Congress and the White House, although he didn’t disagree with me when I remarked that the message could have been broadcast at a higher volume.

Then the discussion turned to President Barack Obama, and I asked him what he thought. “I think it’s a mistake to impute any kind of invidious intent to Obama – he’s from Chicago, he’s a pragmatist, a man who learned to be tough growing up.” There was something cathartic for me in hearing Father Groeschel speak about Obama without any of the rancor that has become common among many pro-life Catholics – including myself.

It’s as if he were saying to me, “Deal, I’ve been around a long time, and known a lot of people; and this kind of man and these kinds of events are nothing new – take a deep breath.”

Father Groeschel has explored the depths of the culture of death as deeply as anyone, yet he is neither tragic nor apocalyptic; laughter comes much more easily to his lips than condemnation. His mirth begins with the recognition of our human fallibility and the evil we do, but it ends with the hope of finding our redemption through faith. As the Christian playwright Christopher Fry once wrote: “Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.”

In the past 24 hours, I’ve heard many sighs of despair, cries of desperation, and claims that it’s time to quit the fight because “it’s over.” Perhaps the reason for all the drama is not merely the passage of the disastrous health-care bill but our attitude of tragic finality about it. History does not work in only one direction, in spite of what Hegel, Marx, and the Catholic progressives claim.

What history takes away it can give back. However, nothing will be given back if we are consumed by anger toward a group of politicians who, as Father Groeschel pointed out about Obama, are mostly pragmatists rather than characters out of Rosemary’s Baby.

Yes, there are committed ideologues out there who must be fought and defeated another day. But I am taking Father Groeschel’s hint and refraining from an angry chest-beating that, let’s be serious, will only hurt my chest and gain us no advantage in the struggle going forward.

When the anger wanes, hope will remain. Therein lies our future.