In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Louise Slaughter, chairman of the House Rules Committee, 183 Congressional representatives demanded that Congress be allowed a free vote on bipartisan pro-life measures that would prohibit government funding of abortion in health care.
The House representatives warn that in the absence of a free vote, they will do everything in their power to make sure that H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, does not reach the House floor for a vote. The letter, signed by 25 Democrats and 158 Republicans, requests that all House members have an opportunity to vote their consciences without threat of ramifications from party leaders on pro-life amendments offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn).
One amendment offered by Pitts and Stupak states that “no funds authorized under this Act (or amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,” although it makes exceptions in the case of danger to the mother’s life, or in cases of rape or incest.
In order for these amendments to come to the floor for a vote, the rules committee has to give its approval. That will require the cooperation of Slaughter, who is not only chairman of the committee, but co-chair of the Congressional bipartisan pro-choice caucus. The letter takes issue with the Capps Amendment which, the letter explains, “actually explicitly authorizes the federal government (Department of Health and Human Services) to directly fund elective abortions, with federal funds drawn on a federal Treasury account.” They continue: “The simple fact is that under the Capps language, the US Treasury will be permitted to issue checks to abortion clinics to reimburse for abortion on demand for the first time in decades.”
Pro-abortion Democrats in Congress say that health care reform will not result in taxpayer funding of abortion, noting that the Hyde Amendment prohibits public funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. However, the Heritage Foundation noted on its website, AskHeritage.org, such an argument is a sly decoy considering that the Hyde Amendment must be renewed annually, as it has been since 1976. A Congress with a pro-abortion majority could easily not renew the Hyde Amendment or pass a health care bill with a provision that over-rides the amendment.
Furthermore, H.R. 3200 explicitly provides that government subsidize private policies that include elective abortion coverage with affordability credits. The legislation violates the spirit of the Hyde Amendment. The letter cites the Congressional Research Service which confirmed that the program will not need any future appropriations and therefore would not violate the Hyde Amendment.
The letter says health care reform should not get bogged down by the abortion debate and that “Real health care is about saving and nurturing life, not about taking life.”
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “the only honest way to maintain the status quo” in which no taxpayer dollars go to pay for abortions, either directly or indirectly, “is to add a (permanent) provision modeled after the Hyde Amendment to any health care reform that becomes law.”
In the Senate, Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) said that language designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion should be part of the health care bill. An amendment to ensure that was defeated 13-10 in a finance committee vote. Nine Republicans and one Democrat supported the Hatch amendment while 12 Democrats and one Republican opposed it.
A Rasmussen poll released in September showed that only 13 per cent of Americans want a health care bill that includes public funding of abortions.