Stupak votes for Health Care Bill After Being Promised an Executive Order Banning Abortion Funding

The Democratic effort to secure the 216 votes needed for passage of the legislation came together only after last-minute negotiations involving the White House, the House leadership and a group of Democratic opponents of abortion rights, led by Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan. On Sunday afternoon, members of the group announced that they would support the legislation after Mr. Obama promised to issue an executive order to “ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services.”

Mr. Stupak described the order as a significant guarantee that would “protect the sanctity of life in health care reform.” But supporters of abortion rights — and some opponents — said the order merely reaffirmed what was in the bill.

- New York Times, "House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama"

Pro-abortion lobbies ‘incensed’ at Stupak deal to pass health care
by Catholic News Agency Mar 21, 2010
Leading pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization of Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have harshly criticized President Obama’s decision to issue an executive order to reassure pro-life Democrats that there would be no federal funding for abortion.

The executive order was published by the White House minutes before Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) announced that he and his bloc of pro-life Democrats would be providing the missing votes to allow the health care bill to pass Sunday evening by a 219-212 margin.

During his press conference, Stupak noted there were only 45 votes in the Senate for his language. “We would all love to have a statute that would be stronger. We can’t get sixty votes in the Senate. The reality is we can’t do it.”

“This bill was going to go through,” Stupak said, saying he believed backers of the Senate bill had enough House votes before he and his pro-life colleagues decided to support the legislation.

To protect the sanctity of life, Stupak said, his coalition went for the “best enforceable” option and settled for the President’s executive order.

The order reads: “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment.”

The executive order requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to draw up in six months’ time a set of guidelines which states must follow to ensure that federal funds don’t pay for abortion coverage. Any such coverage under the state insurance exchanges to be created would have to be paid for by the person insured.

Before the executive order was announced, NOW, NARAL and Planned Parenthood had felt comfortable with the language of the Senate bill...

...Stupak’s successful pressuring of the president to promise an executive order drew a harsh reaction from the leading pro-abortion groups on Sunday afternoon.

“We are incensed by Obama’s executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion,” said NOW President Terry O'Neill in a statement emailed to reporters.

“Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law -- it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. NOW has a longstanding objection to Hyde and, in fact, was looking forward to working with this president and Congress to bring an end to these restrictions. We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn't disagree more,” O’Neill said.

Why the Executive Order Does Not Prevent Taxpayer Funded Abortion
by the Legal Staff of Americans United for Life, March 21, 2010

The White House’s proposed executive order to “deal” with the abortion problems in the Senate health care reform bill reveals that the President will not even attempt to ensure that there is no federal funding for abortion or mandates for abortion coverage in the bill.

The first section of the proposed executive order provides that that “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism” to prevent federal funding for abortions “consistent with . . . the Hyde amendment.” While this acknowledges that the Senate bill is not consistent with the Hyde amendment, the language of the executive order fails to describe accurately and to mirror the scope of the Hyde Amendment.

While the Hyde Amendment comprehensively prohibits the use of all federal funding that flows through Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations for both abortion and insurance plans that cover abortions, the Senate health care bill does not. The executive order does not remedy this problem. First, the executive order only addresses the insurance exchanges (section 2) and the Community Health Center (CHC) funding (section 3). In other words, the executive order still leaves open the possibility that other funds authorized or appropriated through the bill could be used to directly pay for abortions.

Second, while the executive order addresses the insurance exchanges, it utterly fails to apply Hyde to them. Section 2 of the order provides guidelines for “strict compliance” with the provisions in the bill that address how federal subsidies are handled in plans that cover abortions in the exchanges. However, these guidelines do nothing to prevent federal subsidies from going to plans that cover abortions, which directly violates federal principles embodied in the Hyde Amendment and other federal laws, including the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).


Anonymous said...

Bob are the conservatives right in insisting that this executive order will have little or no authority in the court of law? If so, what are we to make of the claim that liberals are making that the executive order is in fact the safeguard needed to assure that abortions are not federally funded?

Bob Robinson said...

I don't know yet. My guess is that it will act a lot like the Hyde Amendment (the provision that currently bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions), which is something that is not set in stone but that congress must renew each year. What Pitts and Stupak were trying to do was to make Hyde type language a permanent part of the Health Care law. The good news is that Hyde has indeed been passed each year since 1976.

Byron Harvey said...

Be interesting to know what minute Bart Stupak was born, because there's one born every minute.

Bob Robinson said...

Nate and Byron,
Check out the UPDATE I just added to this post.

Byron Harvey said...

That's half the story; here's the other half:


Bob Robinson said...

I trust National Right to Life as much as I trust your average politician. NLRC lost my support years ago when they lied about John McCain (that he was not pro-life), and I've found many times when they've stretched the truth to suit their end (as I've said time and again, the end never justifies the means - especially if the means is sinful). Not that all that NRLC lies all the time; I'm just very wary of them now.

So, I switched my support over to the Americans United for Life (AUL). And, you'll be interested to know that they just issued a statement very much like NRLC's -
"Why the Executive Order Does Not Prevent Taxpayer Funded Abortion"

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bob

Neil said...

It is interesting to watch how big an issue this is for you all. One issue that puzzles many Australian Christians is how many American Christians can be anti-abortion yet support the death penalty. Is this not a contradiction ie in regards to 'the sanctity of life'? Can someone enlighten me? Whenever it comes up in conversation, we scratch our heads in trying to work out how the argument must go ie anti-abortion, pro death penalty. Thanks.

Bob Robinson said...

Yes, American evangelicals need to have a consistent "Pro-Life" position that is more than just abortion (including speaking against unjust use of the death penalty, fighting against legislation to legalize euthanasia, raising major objections to America's starting wars, working toward eradicating disease and hunger, and seeking to stop global warming). All this is a consistent Pro-Life agenda.

That being said, a consistent Pro-Life agenda cannot be any LESS than doing what we can to stop the infanticide of abortion! And (as with the issue of this Health Care Bill), we must not allow our tax dollars to subsidize abortion.

Bob Robinson said...

I just added the AUL point of view as "UPDATE #2."

Bob Robinson said...

Theologically speaking, many evangelicals believe that the Bible teaches that God holds such a high regard to the "sanctity of human life" that the only appropriate response for taking a human life is for the murderer to lose his life as well. They cite Genesis 9:6, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."

So, this is not inconsistent - it sees human life as so sacred that if someone kills a human being, they must pay the ultimate price.

Now, that has nothing to say about the injustice of the American legal system. That's the issue for me, and why I oppose Capital Punishment.

Byron Harvey said...

Very well-put in your last response to Nate; I share effectively the same sentiments. I would say that I support the death penalty in principle but oppose it in practice (currently, at least). I'm less impressed with the elements of the "consistent pro-life ethic" that you espouse; one or two of them muddy the waters needlessly for me (you can probably guess which).

As to NRLC, by the way, they just happened to be the first thing that came up on a Google search for "pro-life".