Pro-life advocates hoping to ensure that abortion is not furthered in proposed health care legislation are planning a campaign of public prayer vigils, rallies, lobbying and demonstrations urging “Abortion is Not Health Care.”
The campaign is scheduled to begin on September 12, with a large rally and 28 hours of prayer beginning September 13 on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. According to a press release from the campaign, it is being organized by the Christian Defense Coalition and other national pro-life organizations.
Campaign goals include ensuring that taxpayer money is not used to pay for abortion and that conscience protections are maintained for healthcare providers who decline to perform abortions. Organizers also hope to prevent federal mandates which require health plans to cover abortions and to prevent the invalidation of state laws restricting abortions.
Further, they insist that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., should never become an “essential community health provider.”
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said that stopping the “Obama/Pelosi health care plan” was “the most critical program on the pro-life agenda” because in his view it includes taxpayer funded abortions.
“If abortion becomes part of a health care entitlement, it will add at least 25 years to our struggle toward ending the violence of abortion in America,” he added.
If the bill is passed, he said, “pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals would be forced to pay for abortions. People of good will who believe that human rights begin in the womb would have to pay for the brutal crushing of that innocent life.”
He added that health care is supposed to heal and not destroy innocent life.
Rev. Mahoney predicted that the Abortion is Not Health Care campaign will be a “public and prophetic witness.”
Last week a U.S. House committee approved the Capps Amendment, which would allow the public health plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds. Instead, it would use dollars from beneficiary premiums.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, attacked the proposal as a “sham” and “a bookkeeping scheme.”
“The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan,” he commented.
According to the Associated Press, because abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts on both sides of the debate say that not mentioning it in the bill would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage.
"We want to see people who have no health insurance get it, but this is a sticking point," Richard Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Associated Press. "We don't want health care reform to be the vehicle for mandating abortion."
Abortion proponents have argued that a federal health care plan which refuses to cover abortions will deny coverage for those who have it through workplace insurance, where it is claimed to be widely available.
An Allan Guttmacher Institute study has claimed that nearly 90 percent of private insurers covered abortion procedures in 2002, but that figure has been called into question because it includes non-elective abortions. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2003 found that 46 percent of workers in employer plans had abortion coverage, the Associated Press says.
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the insurance industry trade association America’s Health Insurance Plans, told the Congressional Quarterly that most insurers offer plans that include abortion coverage but most employers choose not to offer it as part of their benefits package.