President's health care proposal comes up short for pro-life leaders

President's health care proposal comes up short for pro-life leaders

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama


President Barack Obama’s Monday proposal of a revamp of health care legislation drew criticism but also cautious speculation from various pro-life leaders. While some criticized the proposal’s lack of abortion funding restrictions, one commentator from the U.S. bishops’ office suggested the president may want “further discussion” on the issue.

The president did not propose any changes to the Senate health care bill’s restrictions on federal funding for abortions, The Los Angeles Times reports. The bill would require any woman buying a subsidized health plan with abortion services to pay separately for the abortion insurance benefit.

Seeking comment on the president’s proposal, CNA contacted Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-life Activities. He responded in an email on Monday.

“We have said that the House bill's position on abortion funding is acceptable and the Senate bill's is not,” Doerflinger told CNA. “The President's proposal, which is really a summary of points rather than a detailed legislative proposal, says he hopes to combine features of the House and Senate bills, but the proposal says nothing about abortion or abortion funding.

“Perhaps he wants to leave this to further discussion.”

Doerflinger reported that his office will have a new letter this week reaffirming the “moral principles” an acceptable health care bill should reflect.

“I don't expect us to comment on proposals until we see something more specific,” he explained.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), claimed that the president’s proposal would directly fund elective abortion by providing $7 billion for the 1,250 Community Health Centers in the U.S. without barring these funds from use in abortion on demand.

According to Johnson, the proposal would also fund an “array” of other pro-abortion federal subsidies and mandates.

“None of President Obama's proposed changes diminish any of the sweeping pro-abortion problems in the Senate bill,” he commented in a Monday press release.

He charged that the proposal would increase funds available to subsidize abortion procedures and to subsidize private health insurance that covers abortion through the premium subsidy tax credits program.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized President Obama’s proposal for lacking abortion funding restrictions.

“In the face of obvious bipartisan consensus against abortion funding, the President remains deaf to the voices of American taxpayers,” Dannenfelser commented. “President Obama’s most precious domestic priority is on life support, but he still refuses to jettison abortion coverage. It appears that abortion ideology is more precious to this president than his top domestic priority.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed that the Hyde Amendment would be codified in a Republican bill which would also prohibit all federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

He also noted that pro-life House Democrats have already pledged to vote against the abortion funding provisions in the health care bill.

“Health care reform should be an opportunity to protect human life – not end it – and the American people agree,” he commented.

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