Catholics United has once again come out in defense of the health care reform bill, claiming that the recently approved Capps Amendment will prevent an abortion mandate. But that claim is being hotly contested by pro-life organizations and lawmakers who say that, in practice, abortions will be federally funded if the legislation passes in September.
In a statement released on Monday, Catholics United welcomed the House Energy and Commerce Committee's decision last week to include language in proposed health care legislation “prohibiting taxpayer dollars from funding abortion services.”
Catholics United was referring to an amendment put forward by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.). According to Catholics United's assessment, the amendment “stipulates that abortion coverage cannot be included in a government-defined essential benefits package, that private insurers participating in the public program cannot be forced to cover abortion services and that plans cannot discriminate against health care providers who do not perform abortions.”
“The inclusion of the Capps Amendment represents a positive step toward health care reform that preserves existing policies prohibiting federal funding for abortion services and ensuring conscience protections for health care providers,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United.
“While some questions do remain, we are confident that health care reform legislation, when finalized, will represent a workable common ground solution that can find broad support from across the spectrum of the abortion debate.”
According to Catholics United, “despite last week's developments, the Family Research Council has refused to discontinue a misleading television advertising campaign intended to scare viewers into opposing the health reform package. Incredibly, the Family Research Council went as far as to denounce the Capps Amendment as evidence that the current legislative proposal will fund abortions.”
“The Family Research Council's continued effort to distort the facts leads one to wonder whether the group's true intent is to derail health care reform. Instead of issuing misleading attacks and inciting fear, the Family Research Council would do better to support efforts aimed at implementing abortion-neutral policies in health care reform legislation.”
Catholics United has committed to “build support for health care reform within faith communities” in key states throughout the August Congressional recess.
But the Family Research Council insists that Korzen has either been deceived or is being deceptive.
In a statement emailed to CNA, the FRC said that, contrary to what Catholics United asserts, the Capps amendment would actually “specifically include abortion in the health care legislation, solidifying the radical pro-abortion nature of this bill.”
According to Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins, “it has been clear to many that the health bills moving through Congress would fund abortion services and mandate coverage for abortion, jumping well beyond the current law which prohibits the funding or subsidizing of abortion.”
“While many abortion proponents claimed we were incorrect in our conclusions, even the most strident deniers would have to agree the amendment offered by Rep. Capps puts the matter to rest. The Capps measure would include both abortion coverage and funding in the 'public option' and the private plans that would be part of the bills' 'Exchange' provision,” Perkins explained.
“The current health care bill –he added- is one huge abortion edict. Adding subterfuge to subterfuge, after an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) to prevent mandatory abortion coverage in public or private plans passed in the committee, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called a re-vote on the amendment and Tennessee Democrat Bart Gordon switched his vote to the pro-abortion side.”
Perkins stated that “even those who claim abortion is not included cannot possibly deny that abortion is explicitly in the legislation because of the Capps amendment.”
“Seventy-one percent of Americans, according to recent polling data, do not want legislation to require insurers to cover abortion, putting the House legislation at complete odds with the will of those they are supposed to represent,” said Perkins.
Mentioning the six Democrats who “held their ground and fought to keep the status quo by keeping government out of the abortion industry,” Perkins said that FRC Action commends them.
“Americans need to hold those who want them to pay for abortion in a public plan to account,” said Perkins.
FRC’s position has been supported by several congressmen, including some “Blue Dog” Democrats. In fact, Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) believes the Capps amendment is a “phony compromise,” according to his press secretary.
Congressman Charlie Melancon, (D-Napoleonville,) voted against the committee's health care reform bill last Friday night, citing his concerns about its inclusion of a public option and its opening the door to public funding of abortion.
“I am concerned that the public option, as designed, would unfairly undercut anything the private sector could offer,” Melancon said. “As someone who is personally pro-life and represents a deeply pro-life constituency, I am also concerned that this bill does not do enough to ensure taxpayer dollars do not fund abortion.”
Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) said in a statement that the amendment “would still allow for taxpayer funding to pay for plans that cover abortion. This is a fig leaf, designed to lure votes from Members who want cover on the issue. The American people will not be fooled. We want an explicit exclusion in the bill to prevent any taxpayer funding from paying for abortions. Anything else is wrong, and contrary to overwhelming popular opinion.”
Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee, also reminded voters that Lois Capps’ pro-life vote-scorecard is 0 for 74. Her amendment, he explained, would allow the "public option" to provide coverage for elective abortions and would allow federally subsidized private plans to provide abortion coverage as well.
“Because money is fungible, it's difficult to say that tax dollars wouldn't fund abortions through this plan. Federal subsidies would also flow to private plans that cover elective abortions, under meaningless bookkeeping schemes -- and the amendment actually creates a federal mandate that there must be at least one private abortion plan in each premium rating areas of the health insurance exchange.”
“The status quo is that nobody has federally subsidized health care that includes abortion,” Johnson reminded.