The Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed a bill Saturday that aims to expand health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack it.
Though the bill, passed on a 220-215 vote, did not include provisions for the funding of abortion, pro-life leaders received news of its passage with caution, noting that there is no guarantee that the final bill will include an amendment barring the federal funding of abortion.
Furthermore, they point out that the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation still has many areas of concern.
"This monstrous bill will ration and deny health care, pay for coercive 'end of life planning,' create multiple bureaucracies that will control Americans' health care, penalize Americans for not buying a product, fine Americans if a government agent decides their health care plan is not 'government approved,' and may force Americans to buy government mandated insurance that funds objectionable procedures," stated Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
"This bill will erode the best health care system in the world," she added. "In exchange for insurance, we'll lose access to proper health care. We'll lose health care providers who will leave the profession."
Prior to Saturday's vote on H.R. 3962, America's Healthy Future Act, an amendment to the bill that maintains the current federal policy of preventing funding of abortion in federal programs was passed by a vote of 240-194.
The vote was widely praised by pro-life conservative groups who have been rallying their supporters to oppose abortion funding in the health care bill. Under the amendment, the new federal government insurance program is prohibited from paying for abortion, except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. It also prohibits the use of the new federal premium subsidies to purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion.
Individuals may only buy supplemental coverage for elective abortions with their own money and only private plans that do not receive government subsidies may cover abortions.
"Democrats and Republicans came together to ensure federal funds would not pay for elective abortions. They corrected a terrible provision in the bill that would force Americans to subsidize abortion, an act that kills unborn children and harms women," commented CWA's Wright.
But the conservative leader expressed her concern that the amendment may have been a "ruse" to gain pro-life Democrats vote for H.R. 3962.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, similarly, expects the White House and pro-abortion congressional Democratic leaders to keep trying to enact government funding of abortion.
So while Saturday's bipartisan House vote is a "sharp blow to the White House's pro-abortion smuggling operation, he said "there is a long battle ahead."
"One victory however does not mean the battle is won," chimed Americans United for Life Action President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest.
"We will remain vigilant in watching the final language of the Senate bill to ensure that pro-life protections remain in the final health care reform bill."
Saturday's 220-215 vote clears the way for the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.
President Obama, who went to Capitol Hill earlier on Saturday to lobby wavering Democrats, said in a statement after the vote that "we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America."
"Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will," he added, "and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year."
Health care reform has been Obama's signature domestic priority.