A group of pro-life black pastors are showing their support for President Obama's health care plan, though conservative public policy experts note that such a plan remains nowhere in sight.
Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., who heads the six million-member Church of God in Christ, and the group of black ministers endorsed the president's controversial health care overhaul Thursday but was careful to reiterate Obama's no-abortion-funding pledge while cautioning the White House against breaking its promise.
"In accord with our commitment to Christian teaching, we wholeheartedly affirm the president's position that medical costs related to the abortion of fetuses shall not be covered by health care plans funded by this initiative," Blake said, according to a copy of his remarks, first released to the Los Angeles Times.
While the anti-abortion pastors' endorsement could give a much-needed boost to the embattled health care bills in Congress, several prominent pro-life activists doubt the pastors will support the Obama administration for long.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, told the LA Times, "From what the pastors are saying, it sounds like what they want to do is what we want to do – which is to ensure that these new plans not cover elective abortions."
But, as Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission recently noted, the features that Obama has described in "my plan" and "my health care proposal" do not exist in any of the bills Congress is working on.
"I don't know what plan the president is talking about," Duke wrote in a column last week. "They (the features) aren't in the liberal Democrats' bills. They aren't in any bill from the Blue Dog Democrats, who haven't written one. They aren't in the Republicans' bills, and there are at least five that Republicans are trying to get people to notice."
And when it comes to Obama's claim that "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place" under his plan, Duke pointed out that this hasn't been seen in any of the bills that the Democrats have been working on.
"In fact, most of them have resisted every effort to put language in their bills guaranteeing that no federal funds would be spent on abortion. I was more surprised by the president's affirmation that conscience laws will remain in place since he already has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to start weakening conscience protections for health care practitioners," the public policy expert added. "I really would like to see this language in the President's plan."
For months, conservatives have been waging a fierce battle against the health care bills in Congress on the belief that they would allow the government to pay for abortions.
Still, some Democratic leaders and President Obama have maintained that the bills allow for no such thing. They claim that people who want abortion to be covered by their government-run health insurance have to pay a premium.
Pro-life groups, however, argue that premiums for abortion coverage end up in a government pool of money and it is the government that receives and pays the bill for the procedure. They contend that essentially the government is paying for the abortion.
They also note that some Democratic lawmakers have publicly stated that the House bill would fund abortions and have gone against their own party to vote against the legislation.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who in July proposed an amendment to prevent mandatory abortion coverage in public or private plan, said in an August issue of Time magazine that President Obama either doesn't understand the bill or "if he is aware of it, and he is making these statements (about abortion coverage), then he is misleading people."
Regarding the endorsement by Bishop Blake and other pro-life clergy, NRLC's Johnson suggested the ministers join the efforts of other pro-life groups to pass amendments that would ban any government funding of abortions under any new health care legislation.
A September survey by Rasmussen Reports shows most Americans (48 percent) believe any government-subsidized health care plan should be prohibited from covering abortion procedures.
Christian Post Reporter Eric Young in San Francisco contributed to this article.