Calls mount for ‘clear’ prohibition of abortion funding in healthcare legislation

Marjorie Dannenfelser / Rev. Jim Wallis
Marjorie Dannenfelser / Rev. Jim Wallis


Arguing that U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions, almost 70 pro-life organizations have signed a letter to Congress asking that abortion be clearly excluded from proposed health care bills. Others, including a prominent Evangelical ally of President Obama, say that an abortion funding ban should be maintained.

Present health care restructuring proposals, the Thursday letter from the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition said, pose “a grave danger to the unborn.”

The letter was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH).

Signatories to the letter included Priests for Life President Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Democrats for Life of America head Kristen Day, President Brian Burch, Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List.

John F. Brehany of the Catholic Medical Association and Christian Medical Association Senior Vice President Dr. Gene Rudd, M.D. also signed the letter.

“Excluding abortion from public funding is true common ground that all Americans can support,” the letter commented, citing polls that show as many as 70 percent of Americans oppose public funding for abortions.

Referring to President Barack Obama’s stated goal of reducing the number of abortions, the letter said that it is generally agreed that public funding bans on abortion discourage the procedure.

“Yet the draft proposals go even further than just funding abortion with taxpayers’ dollars,” the letter claims. “The proposals ensure that every American will eventually be in a plan that includes abortion.”

According to the letter, the health care bills require individuals to buy health insurance that meets “certain minimum benefits standards” which will be determined by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“History has shown that if the law does not clearly state that abortion is excluded, government agencies and the courts will mandate that abortion be a required benefit,” the letter’s signatories wrote. “Even if the word abortion does not appear in the bill text, abortion will be construed to be a required benefit if it is not excluded.”

Several pro-abortion groups’ comments were then cited as evidence of this danger. The National Abortion Federation has supported health care reform to increase access to “comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care.” The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Health claims that “basic health care includes abortion services.” NARAL president Nancy Keenan has also voiced optimism about “reproductive health care” being a part of the entire package.

According to the Washington Post, pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has charged that the House’s health care legislation contains “a hidden abortion mandate.”

The pro-life groups’ letter also voiced concern about conscience protections for healthcare professionals who decline to perform or refer for abortions.

“Catholic hospitals make up 15-20% of all hospitals in the country. If they are forced to perform abortions under the new government healthcare plan, it is possible that many would close their doors rather than violate the ethical and religious directives of their church,” the letter explained.

“Strong, clear protections for private conscience must be included in any healthcare legislation.”

Without funding bans and other protective measures, the letter argued, healthcare reform will be a “death sentence for thousands of unborn children.”

“The unborn and their mothers deserve better than abortion. There are always two patients, mother and baby. America deserves a health care system that respects, protects, and cherishes both,” the letter concluded.

Evangelical minister and Obama supporter Rev. Jim Wallis, who was not among the letter’s signatories, said in a Wednesday statement that abortion should not “doom the chances” of healthcare legislation. He characterized abortion in politics as a “contentious and ultimately unproductive debate” between “simplified and polarizing positions.”

“Federal funding of abortions is prohibited by current law, and that prohibition should be maintained,” said Rev. Wallis, who also edits the left-wing Sojourners magazine. “Any final legislation should make clear that no private insurance company will be mandated to pay for an abortion, nor should they be prohibited from paying for an abortion. These provisions would maintain the current status quo, and demonstrate how sensible common ground can bring people together.”

According to a press release from the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition, pro-life leaders had scheduled a “massive” webcast on Thursday night at 9 pm Eastern Time. More information on the webcast is available at


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