Obama Spokesman Gets Testy With Press on Obama’s Abortion Executive Order

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 24, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Obama Spokesman Gets Testy With Press on Obama’s Abortion Executive Order

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 24
, 2010

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A top White House official defended the executive order President Barack Obama signed today supposedly nullifying the abortion funding provisions in the new health care scheme. The main Obama spokesman got testy with reporters, who challenged him on the details of the order.

But pro-life groups continue to attack the executive order saying it will never stop any abortion funding or promotion.

Robert Gibbs , the White House press secretary, said today that Obama doesn’t regard the order as a "worthless piece of paper," as pro-life groups have said.

"[T]he EO reiterates our belief that that the legislation maintains the status quo enshrined in current law – however it does provide enforcement that these individuals believed was needed and that the President agreed to," Gibbs said.

But in a testy exchange with reporters, Gibbs wouldn’t elaborate.

Q Can I ask one other question about the executive order the President is signing today? Does the President think that this executive order is necessary? Does he think that there was ambiguity in the law? Or does he think that there wasn’t any ambiguity but this was just done because people like Bart Stupak wanted it done?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I would say the President believed that the law — the President has always believed that health care reform should be about that, not about other issues. The President did not, in health care reform, believe we did change the status quo and believes that this reiterates that it’s not changed.
Q So he doesn’t think it’s necessary, it’s just reiterating what is already in the law?
MR. GIBBS: I mean, it’s an executive order so this isn’t — I mean, it’s not a frivolous thing, Jake.
Q No, of course not. But does this executive order change anything that the law already didn’t do?
MR. GIBBS: It ensures that health care, the law the President signed yesterday, maintains the status quo of the federal law prohibiting the federal use — the use of federal dollars for abortion.
Q So it is needed, that the law was not clear enough?
MR. GIBBS: The President reiterated that in the executive order.
Q So all he’s doing is repeating what’s in the law?
Q So it’s just — I mean, you can’t have it both ways. Either the executive order is needed to clarify something that’s not —
MR. GIBBS: No, I — again, I would refer you to the executive order and the statements that we made about this over the weekend.
Q I read the executive order, and it says that’s a reiteration of what already exists.
MR. GIBBS: Well, there you go.
Q So it’s not necessary? Q Not legally necessary?
MR. GIBBS: We reiterated —
Q Might have been necessary for other reasons, but it’s not legally necessary.
MR. GIBBS: No, we reiterated the status quo, and we’re comfortable reiterating that status quo.
Q — comfortable for a legal purpose?
MR. GIBBS: We’re comfortable reiterating that status quo.
Q Doesn’t it diminish the whole purpose of a presidential — of an executive order if all he’s doing is reiterating what’s already in the law? Why would he do that?
MR. GIBBS: No. No. We don’t see that as diminishing

Meanwhile, pro-life groups continued pounding the executive order — something they feel is worthless and will never prohibit abortion funding in the health care program Obama signed into law.

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council Action PAC, made it clear.

"The order is, as Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards pointed out, ‘a symbolic gesture’ that has absolutely no bearing on what the legislation does and does not fund," he said.

And the legal team at Americans United for Life released a detailed analysis.

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," AUL says. "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."

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," AUL explains.

While the executive order addresses the insurance exchanges, it does not apply the Hyde amendment 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 ," AUL notes.

"Current law forbids federal dollars from going to insurance plans that cover abortions, regardless of whether or not the dollars directly pay for abortions. In contrast, all this section of the executive order accomplishes is strict compliance with the anti-life “abortion surcharge” provision in the bill, which segregates the portion of premiums that pays for abortions in plans that cover abortion from federal funds," it continues.

Section 3 addresses new funding for CHCs and the Senate bill does not prohibit these new funds from being used to pay for abortions.

AUL continues, "While the executive order states that the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations currently prohibit the use of CHC funds for abortions, the Hyde Amendment is not applied to CHC funding by statutory law, but only by regulations from an administrative agency."

This section of the executive order states that the Hyde Amendment will apply to the new authorization and appropriation of CHC funds.

"While this section may effectively prohibit the use of CHC funds for abortions, a court could interpret the statutory language as requiring the use of the funds for abortions because there is no statutory prohibition, which courts have done in the past with other health care statutory language," AUL informed LifeNews.com.

Also, the executive order is not permanent law, just as regulations are not permanent law.

"Either or both of these can be repealed by President Obama and his administration fairly easily.
Should this executive order remain in place, it does not even attempt to address the broad mandate authorities in the bill that could be used to require private insurance plans to cover abortions," AUL explains.

For instance, the Mikulski amendment to the Senate bill allows an administrative agency to determine what is “preventive care.” If abortion is categorized as “preventive care,” private insurance plans will be required to cover abortions.

Related web sites:
Americans United for Life – https://www.AUL.org

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