.- A new amendment to a health care reform bill which claims to remove government funding for abortions is drawing criticism from pro-life leaders who deem it to be âphony.â The provision would actually fund abortion and is inferior to the proposed Stupak Amendment, they charge.
The draft text of the Ellsworth-DeLauro Amendment, which modifies the bill H.R. 3962, was sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), a reportedly pro-life Democrat.
In a Tuesday press release, Rep. Ellsworth claimed that the amendment explicitly prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion in the âpublic optionâ and prohibits U.S. Treasury funds from paying for abortion services in plans purchased through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange.
According to the Congressman, the amendment creates âstrict rulesâ separating public funds from private individualsâ premiums. It also claims to guarantee access to a pro-life insurance option and to expand conscience protections securing pro-life insurance plans from discrimination.
Planned Parenthood Vice President for Public Policy Laurie Rubiner was skeptical of the proposal, citing Rep. Ellsworthâs zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
She contended that the competing Capps Amendment bars federal funding for âabortion careâ and does not require or prohibit abortion access.
âWe are concerned that this new language could tip the balance away from women's access to reproductive health care,â she remarked in a Tuesday statement.
Pro-life leaders were also highly critical of the bill.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, criticized the Ellsworth-DeLauro proposal in a Wednesday phone interview with CNA.
Johnson charged that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic congressmen are âdeterminedâ to cover elective abortions in the federal health insurance programs.
âThat is their goal,â he said, claiming that the relevant language is on page 110 of the proposed bill.
According to Johnson, the bill âexplicitly authorizesâ payments for elective abortions under the federal health insurance plan.
âFederal agencies can only spend federal funds,â he explained. âUnder this bill, in other words, this new federal agency program will pay for abortion on demand with federal funds.â
Johnson said that the amendment proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) would prevent this from happening, much like the Hyde Amendment stopped Medicaid funding for abortions.
He charged that leading Democrats in Congress and the White House are trying to make a âsharp breakâ with decades of federal policy.
âTheyâre just going to pretend that these arenât federal funds,â he added. âIf the federal government is paying abortionists for elective abortions, that is federal funding for abortions. It doesnât matter if they write in that they claim theyâre using non-federal funds.â
Johnson told CNA that under the Ellsworth-DeLauro Amendment the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to hire a private contractor to take the payments for the abortions. According to Johnson, Rep. Ellsworthâs staff claimed that this ensured no federal funding for abortion because a private contractor would be handling the money.
âThis is ludicrous,â Johnson said. âA law that requires a federal official to hire a âbagmanâ to deliver federal funds to abortionists? This is worse than the original bill.â
âSpeaker Pelosi, Rep. Henry Waxman and the White House have a problem. They promised Planned Parenthood that theyâd set up a national public plan that covered abortions. Itâs in the bill, but itâs very unpopular with public. They misrepresent whatâs in the bill.â
He charged that the new amendment is intended to provide political cover for the 40 House members who wanted to support Rep. Stupakâs amendment. He called this alleged deception âan insult to the intelligence of the American people.â
Explaining the legislative process, Johnson explained that the amendmentâs language will be written into the House rule. The vote on whether to accept the rule will occur either Friday or Saturday, with Saturday being more likely.
If Congress rejects the rule, it will have to consider whether to allow Rep. Stupakâs amendment.
âOver the next 24 or 48 hours weâll see all sorts of little theater about coming together and compromising. Itâs all scripted, itâs all phony,â Johnson charged.
He told CNA that his analysis of the amendment was not unique to the National Right to Life Committee but also was shared by the attorneys of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other analysts.
âThis is just slapping on a few extra layers of makeup,â he claimed. Rep. Stupakâs amendment, by contrast, would be âsurgeryâ to remove pro-abortion provisions.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in a Tuesday statement that the language of Ellsworth-DeLauro does nothing to change the fact that the public option will be authorized to pay for abortion.
âIf they truly want to keep abortion out of the health care bill, they must accept the Stupak-Pitts amendment that says clearly and plainly that there can be no funding for abortion and no government subsidies for plans that cover abortion,â he said.
He criticized the new proposal as âyet another phony amendmentâ that is âdesigned to subsidize and expand the abortion industry cloaked in deceptive language.â
Rep. Smith stated that H.R. 3962 becoming law would result in the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.
âThe public should not be fooled nor should any pro-life Democrat,â he continued. âSlaughtering innocent children is never health care.â