Ground Zero for the sanctity of human life is now the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Democratic leadership is pulling all the levers to come up with the 216 votes necessary to pass the Obama health care bill. While most of the nation seems preoccupied with the politics of the issue and the political machinations of the frenzied legislative process, the preeminent issue is abortion and the sanctity of human life.
While President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have insisted that the current bill is "abortion neutral," it is not. As Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life argues, the bill represents "the single greatest expansion of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision."
Some background information is in order. Federal funding for abortion is prevented by the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976 in order to prevent taxpayer funds from paying for abortions. The concept behind the Hyde Amendment is simple and important. Abortion is a highly divisive issue, and the federal government should not require American citizens to violate their consciences by subsidizing abortions. Just a few months ago, the House of Representatives adopted language similar to the Hyde Amendment in the form of what became known as the Stupak Amendment, named for Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who introduced the legislation.
The bill currently before Congress does not include the Stupak Amendment, nor anything like the Hyde Amendment. When the President and congressional leaders insist that the current bill does not subsidize abortions, they mislead the American public.
The bill requires all Americans to purchase health insurance through qualified government-approved policies. The current version, based on the bill passed by the Senate, would require qualified plans to cover abortion only through a separate policy, paid for with a separate check or payroll deduction. Yet, as Dr. Yoest argues, this leaves plenty of room for American citizens to be coerced into financial involvement with abortion.
At the first level, this is true because the entire health care insurance system, complete with mandates to individual American citizens, would effectively reset the economy of scale, meaning that we will all, in effect, be subsidizing abortion services in an indirect subsidy. More directly, employees of companies that choose a policy with abortion coverage will be coerced into a direct subsidy - required to pay what would amount to an abortion tax.
There is also the issue of mandated coverage through action of the federal courts. The Hyde Amendment became necessary because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in 1996 that abortion must be covered by Medicaid as a "mandatory" category of medical care. The Hyde Amendment is all that stands between that ruling and taxpayer funding of abortion.
The creeping coverage of abortions is what Dr. Yoest has in mind when she writes: "Without specific language prohibiting the practice, history has shown that the courts or administrative agencies end up directing government dollars to pay for abortions."
Beyond all this, the current bill lacks the conscience protections necessary to prevent medical personnel from being required to participate in abortions.
Why are the Democratic leaders so determined to exclude the Stupak Amendment from the bill? The most stunning and revealing explanation comes from Rep. Stupak himself. Consider this:
What are Democratic leaders saying? "If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That's one of the arguments I've been hearing," Stupak says. "Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue - come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we're talking about."
If Obamacare passes, Stupak says, it could signal the end of any meaningful role for pro-life Democrats within their own party. "It would be very, very hard for someone who is a right-to-life Democrat to run for office," he says. "I won't leave the party. I'm more comfortable here and still believe in a role within it for the right-to-life cause, but this bill will make being a pro-life Democrat much more difficult. They don't even want to debate this issue.
This language is nothing less than horrifying. "If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more."
As James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal insists, this is nothing less than a call for eugenics. Where does this logic lead?
He writes: "In order to be effective, a policy of using abortion as a cost-cutting measure would have to aim at preventing the birth of babies with such pre-existing conditions. The goal would be not a reduction in the number of babies, but an "improvement" in the "quality" (narrowly defined in economic terms) of the babies who are born."
Americans may disagree on virtually every dimension of this health care bill, but this is now about far more than health care. As Rep. Stupak asserts, "This is life we're talking about." Unless adequate protections for the unborn are added to this bill, we are indeed witnessing a radical turn in this nation's moral character. Time is running out. The adoption of adequate protections for the unborn should be beyond debate.
Rep. Stupak's words bear repeating, over and over again. "This is life we're talking about."
I have refrained from extended comment on the health care reform bills - not because I do not have multiple concerns about the bills, but because I recognize that committed Christians can and will disagree over the political and policy issues involved. The trip-wire for me is the issue of human life. The current bill spells disaster when it comes to abortion. I cannot remain silent in this crucial moment where the sanctity of human life is at stake.