After the issue almost torpedoed the House version of Obamacare, abortion remains a driving force of division in the U.S. Senate as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has included language favoring federal funding of abortions in the Senate bill.
The 2,000 plus page healthcare bill announced by Mr. Reid this week has rejected language used by the House to ensure Obamacare would not become a subsidy for Planned Parenthood. Specifically, the Senate bill did not include the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.
The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would have prohibited the use of federal monies for abortions by applying the concept of the Hyde Amendment — an early pro-life victory barring the use of federal funds for abortion through money allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services — to Obamacare. It would have prevented the Democratic Congress from using the public option to fund abortions, as well as prohibiting private insurers with customs receiving federal monies from using such monies to fund abortions.
Mr. Reid’s bill, however, has ignored such language and authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius – a pro-choice advocate and friend of late term abortionist George Tiller – to authorize the federal funding of elective abortions.
The Reid language, thus, actually mirrors the language the House deleted from its healthcare bill after a bi-partisan collation of lawmakers objected.
"It appears that their approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif.
Ms. Capps has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and was a leading voice of including federally funded abortions in the House. Her language, the language adopted by the Senate, was rejected by the House in a 240-193 vote.
The Senate bill, as it is written, will also provide subsidies for individuals who obtain private insurance that cover elective abortions.
The issue of abortion has plagued Obamacare as a small number of radical lawmakers have attempted to use the proposal to deepen the coffers of Planned Parenthood. But by attempting to use Obamacare to further pro-choice objectives, liberals have placed Mr. Obama in a delicate situation.
Though he campaigned as a pro-choice candidate, Mr. Obama made statements on the campaign trail in favor of finding “common ground” on the divisive issue. But the pro-choice wing of his party is boxing Mr. Obama into a corner over the issue and could very well prevent the passage of Obamacare.
As it stands, the public is not in favoring the piggybacking of federally funded abortions on the healthcare bill.
Forty-eight percent of the public want a healthcare bill banning federally funded abortions, while just 13 percent want federal coverage, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll. Thirty-two percent say the bill should be silent on the issue and seven percent are unsure.
Such polls, however, do not register among the pro-choice lobby. Instead, they are in favoring of using their newfound power to turn back the clock on pro-life measures while advancing abortion coverage.
"A lack of access to full reproductive health care puts the lives of women and girls at grave risk," said U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
This anti-choice measure poses greater restriction on low-income women and those who are more likely to receive some kind of subsidy and less likely to be able to afford a supplemental insurance policy.
Other pro-choice advocates were equally unyielding in their demand to use Obamacare as a mechanism to mandate federal abortion funding.
"The House's passage of the unconscionable Stupak-Pitts amendment is a powerful wake-up call to women,” said Kelli Conlin, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York. Ms. Conlin argued the amendment was a betrayal.
But pro-life advocates warned lawmakers not to use healthcare to advance the abortion cause.
"A majority of the House of Representatives voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment, and that represents the thinking of a majority of Americans," Fr. Frank Pavone, President of the National Pro-Life Council, stated. "The Senate should act in a similar manner. This is a health care bill, not a bill to expand child killing."
Fr. Pavone stressed abortion is not synonymous with healthcare and the Democratic Congress needed to recognize this fact.
"Those who argue that abortion is a private matter in which the government has no business cannot then insist that federal funds be used to pay for it," added Fr. Pavone. "Money laundering schemes or shell games will not be tolerated. Abortion is not health care and taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize it."
Joe Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org