‘Phony’ amendment to health care bill will not defund abortions, pro-life leaders charge

‘Phony’ amendment to health care bill will not defund abortions, pro-life leaders charge

Representatives Brad Ellsworth and Rosa DeLauro
Representatives Brad Ellsworth and Rosa DeLauro


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 “phony.” 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 “public option” 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 “strict rules” separating public funds from private individuals’ 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. Ellsworth’s zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

She contended that the competing Capps Amendment bars federal funding for “abortion care” and does not require or prohibit abortion access.

“We are concerned that this new language could tip the balance away from women's access to reproductive health care,” 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 “determined” to cover elective abortions in the federal health insurance programs.

“That is their goal,” he said, claiming that the relevant language is on page 110 of the proposed bill.

According to Johnson, the bill “explicitly authorizes” payments for elective abortions under the federal health insurance plan.

“Federal agencies can only spend federal funds,” he explained. “Under this bill, in other words, this new federal agency program will pay for abortion on demand with federal funds.”

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 “sharp break” with decades of federal policy.

“They’re just going to pretend that these aren’t federal funds,” he added. “If the federal government is paying abortionists for elective abortions, that is federal funding for abortions. It doesn’t matter if they write in that they claim they’re using non-federal funds.”

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. Ellsworth’s staff claimed that this ensured no federal funding for abortion because a private contractor would be handling the money.

“This is ludicrous,” Johnson said. “A law that requires a federal official to hire a ‘bagman’ to deliver federal funds to abortionists? This is worse than the original bill.”

“Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Henry Waxman and the White House have a problem. They promised Planned Parenthood that they’d set up a national public plan that covered abortions. It’s in the bill, but it’s very unpopular with public. They misrepresent what’s in the bill.”

He charged that the new amendment is intended to provide political cover for the 40 House members who wanted to support Rep. Stupak’s amendment. He called this alleged deception “an insult to the intelligence of the American people.”

Explaining the legislative process, Johnson explained that the amendment’s 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. Stupak’s amendment.

“Over the next 24 or 48 hours we’ll see all sorts of little theater about coming together and compromising. It’s all scripted, it’s all phony,” 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.

“This is just slapping on a few extra layers of makeup,” he claimed. Rep. Stupak’s amendment, by contrast, would be “surgery” 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.

“If 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,” he said.

He criticized the new proposal as “yet another phony amendment” that is “designed to subsidize and expand the abortion industry cloaked in deceptive language.”

Rep. Smith stated that H.R. 3962 becoming law would result in the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

“The public should not be fooled nor should any pro-life Democrat,” he continued. “Slaughtering innocent children is never health care.”