Catholics United, a group known for backing Democratic initiatives, issued a statement yesterday accusing a television ad campaign launched by the Family Research Council (FRC) of misinforming the U.S. public about the health care reform bill. FRC responded today to the allegations by saying that Catholics United is the one ignoring the facts.
Catholics United stated yesterday that “The Family Research Council's efforts are part of a broader ‘Stop the Abortion Mandate’ campaign that is using abortion scare tactics to turn pro-life voters against health reform.”
“In FRC Action's ad, entitled ‘After a Government Takeover,’ actors ... claim that current health care proposals would deny funding for essential treatments while providing public funding for abortions,” Catholics United said.
Echoing a point made by several Democratic representatives, the group said, “Currently, no health care bill contains any reference to abortion, let alone a mandate for public funding of abortion. In a rebuttal to the attack ad, CNN.com notes that ‘the current bill does not contain any provision for taxpayer-funded abortions.’”
Catholics United also argued that President Obama told CBS's Katie Couric on July 21 that the government should not try “to micromanage what benefits are covered,” and should continue to uphold a tradition of “not financing abortions as part of government funded health care.”
“Either the Family Research Council is seriously misinformed, or it is intentionally distorting the truth in order to derail health care reform,” charged Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. “If the Family Research Council was truly committed to human life it would focus its efforts on ensuring that the tens of millions of Americans who currently lack heath insurance can get the care they need. This attack ad is unhelpful, untruthful, and not at all pro-life.”
“The actions of the Family Research Council and the 'Stop the Abortion Mandate' campaign pose perhaps the single greatest threat to the passage of health care reform,” Korzen opined. “We urge them to do the right thing and suspend these efforts immediately.”
But Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President for FRC Action told CNA that Catholics United is either being deceived or deceptive about the truth regarding abortion and the health care legislation.
“On the issue of where in the health care legislation is abortion, Family Research Council Action agrees with Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Pro-life Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” McClusky said.
In a letter dated July 29th, 2009, Cardinal Rigali stated indeed that “much needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding.”
According to McClusky, The “where in the legislation” question is “one we saw back during the debate over the Clinton-Mitchell Health Care Reform plan of 1993, S. 1757.” “The Clinton-Mitchell bill also did not include abortions, however President Bill Clinton admitted on ABC’s Nightline that abortions would be funded in his health care bill stating ‘it will be impossible to separate out the public and the private funds,’” FRC’s Vice President said.
“While today we are dealing with a slightly different bill than in 1993, his truthful answer would still have to remain the same.”
McClusky explained that “several provisions in H.R. 3200 provide mechanisms, some which are very similar to the 1993 legislation, for funding or mandating abortion coverage and even for overturning state pro-life laws.
“Under the minimum benefits package required under Section 122, abortion could be mandated as part of ‘outpatient clinic services.’ Abortion could be mandated under the auspices of ‘family planning’ coverage in Section 1714. Abortion could be funded under Section 221, which authorizes the Secretary of HHS to create a ‘public health insurance option’.” he said.
“‘What about the Hyde Amendment?’ might be the next question,” McClusky said.
“Both legislative and court history shows us the Hyde Amendment will not be sufficient.”
Pointing to the origins of the Hyde Amendment, McClusky noted that “Medicaid funded over 300,000 abortions until Congress expressly stopped such funding in 1977 by passing the Hyde appropriations ban, which bars most taxpayer funding of abortions.
“When the Hyde Amendment was challenged, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, while defending the legitimacy of Hyde, did, however, make clear that ‘abortion fits within many of the mandatory care categories, including family planning, outpatient services, inpatient services, and physicians’ services,’” he recalled.
Additionally, McClusky also explained that the Hyde Amendment “needs to be renewed every year or it goes away.”
According to the FRC Vice President, the disappearance of the Hyde Amendment is something that then Senator Barack Obama stated he was in favor of in a 2007 presidential candidate questionnaire. “In that same questionnaire Senator Obama also stated his health plan would include both a ‘public option’ and funding for abortion.”
FRC also faulted Catholics United for ignoring the “self-appropriating features” in H.R. 3200 that would allow funding to circumvent the Hyde Amendment.
“The question is,” McClusky stated, “if abortion is already excluded from the health care bill, as Catholics United claims and which a number of groups and Members of Congress dispute - what is the harm of adding wording to that effect?”
“This debate is not about the legality of abortion, nor should it be - for all parties agree health care reform is needed, but whether the Federal government should fund or subsidize abortion services. It does not now, and it should not in the future,” FRC’s Vice President said.