Health Care Bill Gets House Approval, Abortion Funding Battle Shifts to Senate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 6, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Health Care Bill Gets House Approval, Abortion Funding Battle Shifts to Senate

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 6
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The health care bill in Congress received its first favorable vote in a chamber of Congress on virtually a very narrow vote Saturday night. Passage of the legislation came after lawmakers voted for the Stupak amendment to remove abortion funding from the legislation.

The House voted 220 to 215 with 39 Democrats joining 176 republicans to oppose it and 219 Democrats and one Republican in favor.

Although the Stupak amendment removes the abortion funding under the public option and affordability credits, not all of the pro-life concerns are resolved with the bill.

The measure appears to contain strong conscience protection regarding abortion for medical professionals; however, "Section 304(d) protects abortion practitioners from “discrimination” by pro-life insurance plans who want to participate in the exchange, but do not want to contract with abortionists," says Americans United for Life.

"This limits the extent to which an insurance company can be pro-life," the pro-life group indicates.

Also, while Sections 258(a) and (b) "provide that there is no preemption of state laws on abortion or of federal protections for conscience … the conscience protection in the bill does not extend to pharmacists and pharmacies and there is no assurance that state laws protecting the conscience of these health care providers will not be preempted," the pro-life group notes.

HR 3926 also contains numerous end-of-life concerns.

The bill contains the controversial "death panels" panned in the previous legislation and it includes two clear end-of-life provisions — including one that requires insurance companies to distribute advance directives and other planning tools to all who are insured on the new government-run exchange.

The other allows Medicare reimbursement for optional end-of-life planning consultation.

Both provisions appear to exclude assisted suicide from the consultations and advance directives, but those exclusions have no meaning in the Washington and Oregon (and possibly soon in Montana) where assisted suicides are legal.

There, state law says that "death with dignity," the legal terms in those states for assisted suicide, does not actually constitute assisted suicide.

In both states, state law says actions under the assisted suicide statute "shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide, under the law."

As a result, in Washington and Oregon, Medicare reimbursed consultations could involve assisted suicide planning and advance directives or other planning materials distributed by mandate. Thus, taxpayer-funded information provided under both provisions will include assisted suicide options in those states where it is legal.

The debate on abortion funding now moves to the Senate, where two different committees have approved two bills, both of which include abortion funding — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid combined them into one measure that funds abortions.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 last month to send a pro-abortion health care reform bill to the Senate floor. The Baucus bill, named for the chairman of the panel who is its main sponsor, would fund abortions with massive subsidies.

Lawmakers voted mostly along party lines with pro-abortion Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine joining the committee’s pro-abortion Democrats to pass the bill.

After rejecting pro-life amendments that would have ensured the Baucus health care bill does not fund abortions and to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals, pro-life groups urged opposition to the bill.

On a 13-10 vote, the Senate Finance Committee rejected an amendment from Sen. Orrin Hatch that would have the bill conform to current federal law prohibiting direct abortion funding.

The panel also rejected a second pro-life amendment that would have offered protection for medical workers who don’t want to participate in or refer for abortions. A third amendment to stop rationing also went down in defeat.

Pro-life lawmakers are expected to introduce amendments on the Senate floor to stop abortion funding and rationing.

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