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Pro-Life Groups Back Bill to Zap Abortion Funding in Obamacare

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 10/11/11 3:57 PM

National

Leading pro-life organizations are urging members of Congress on Thursday to pass a bill that would stop abortion funding in Obamacare, the national health care plan that contains no limits on taxpayer funding of abortions.

H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, will likely come up for a vote on the House floor next Thursday after pro-life lawmakers fended off numerous hostile amendments from pro-abortion members of Congress during the committee markup. Capital Hill sources informed LifeNews they expect pro-abortion lawmakers to offer many of those weakening amendments that would water down the bill on the House floor.

The Protect Life Act makes it clear that no funds authorized or appropriated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, may be used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage. It specifies that individual people or state or local governments must purchase a separate elective abortion rider or insurance coverage that includes elective abortion but only as long as that is done with private funds and not monies authorized by Obamacare.

The bill also specifies that insurance issuers may offer health plans that include elective abortion and may offer separate elective abortion riders, so long as they ensure PPACA funds are not used for premiums or administrative costs. The bill also clarifies that issuers who offer elective abortion coverage must also offer a qualified health benefits plan that is identical except that it does not cover elective abortion.

The pro-life measure also ensures that state laws “protecting conscience rights, restricting or prohibiting abortion or coverage or funding of abortion, or establishing procedural requirements on abortion” are not abrogated by Obamacare. It also makes it so any state or local governments receiving funding under Obamacare may not subject any health care entity to discrimination or require any health plan to subject any entity to discrimination on the basis that it refuses to undergo abortion training, refuses to require abortion training, refuses to perform or pay for abortions, or refuses to provide abortion referrals.

The National Right to Life Committee has sent a letter to lawmakers urging strong support for the legislation, saying the Obamacare law Congress passed did not contain sufficient provisions to stop abortion funding.

“In 2010, Congress narrowly enacted, over NRLC’s objections, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” NRLC wrote in its letter. “That law contained multiple provisions that provide authorizations for subsidies for abortion, both implicit and explicit, and also multiple provisions that opened doors to abortion-expanding administrative actions. Regrettably, the enacted PPACA lacked effective, bill-wide language to prevent subsidies for abortion, such as the House of Representatives had earlier attached to its version of health care restructuring legislation (the Stupak-Pitts Amendment).”

“H.R. 358, sponsored by Congressman Joe Pitts, would apply the pro-life principles of the Hyde Amendment to every component of the PPACA, and contains important conscience protections for pro-life health care providers as well,” the organization added, citing its longer analysis of the bill.

Meanwhile, CatholicVote.org is also urging a yes vote on the Protect Life Act, saying it supports the bill because it “would specifically prohibit funding for abortion or abortion coverage in the government related exchanges, community health centers, or any other program authorized by the new law.”

“The proposed law would also protect conscience rights by specifying that federal agencies could not discriminate against healthcare entities that refuse to be involved in abortions,” CatholicVote adds.

The pro-life group is urging pro-life advocates to tell lawmakers to oppose any pro-abortion gutting amendments: “Pro-abortion legislators, backed by Planned Parenthood, are planning to gut the new bill with amendments designed to water down the taxpayer protections and conscience protections. As of now, the pro-life majority in Congress is holding strong — but they need to hear from the Catholic vote. Pro-life groups are united behind this legislation. Our Catholic Bishops have also been urging Congress to pass this law.”

“You may recall that these taxpayer protections were originally proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak during the debate over Obamacare. The House voted to include them in the new healthcare law, but Democrats in the Senate ultimately struck them from the final bill. In an 11th hour move to satisfy wavering legislators, President Obama promised to use an Executive Order to assure that taxpayers would not be forced to fund abortion,” the group continued. “But legal scholars agree the Executive Order is weak, and could be tossed out by any President at any time. We need a permanent fix. We need a law that guarantees that any government-sponsored health insurance program will NEVER fund the destruction of innocent children.”

Republican Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, is the chief sponsor of the measure.

During the committee hearing earlier this year, Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law, and a former spokeswoman for the pro-life office of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops testified on the pro-life side along with Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

On the pro-abortion side, Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University testifed again for committee Democrats. Rosenbaum was embarrassed on Tuesday in the hearing on the taxpayer funding abortion ban when she was unable to answer questions about whether gruesome late abortions should be funded with taxpayer dollars.

The Protect Life Act has been endorsed by the USCCB, the Catholic Health Association (CHA), and numerous national and state pro-life organizations and leaders.

ACTION: Contact your member of the House at http://www.house.gov to urge strong support for the Protect Life Act and opposition to any weakening amendments.