- (Photo: AP Images / Gerald Herbert)
President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday to maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion under the new health care reform law.
In a closed door event, Obama signed what the White House said is an executive order to reaffirm the Hyde Amendment’s abortion funding restrictions. The 1977 provision bars the use of federal funds for abortion with exceptions for rape, incest or danger to the life of the woman.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the leader of the House pro-life Democrats who struck the deal with the president, and 12 other House Democrats who oppose abortion attended the signing.
During much of the health care reform debate, the Michigan lawmaker was under fire from the Democratic Party for opposing the bill over abortion funding. But at the last minute he switched sides after President Obama promised an executive order. Since then Stupak has been the target of pro-life groups’ wrath.
But Stupak maintained Tuesday, “I have said from the start that my goal was to see health care pass while maintain the principle of the sanctity of life.”
Still, pro-life groups doubt the effectiveness of the executive order and question President Obama’s sincerity because the executive order was signed behind closed doors.
“If the Executive Order solution were real, then the signing ceremony would have to be on the White House lawn-somewhere big enough to fit the massive, bipartisan consensus that exists opposing taxpayer funding for abortion,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.
“Today's closed door ceremony reveals just how quickly this pro-abortion president and his enablers want this issue to go away,” she said.
Family Research Council contrasted the “festivities” of Tuesday’s health care bill signing and Wednesday’s behind closed doors abortion funding signing.
“The White House was right to keep the event low-key because the signing doesn't change anything,” said FRC Action PAC President Tony Perkins. “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.”
Besides problems with pro-life groups, the White House is also dealing with lawsuits filed by more than a dozen state attorneys general over the health care bill. Officials in 14 states filed suit soon after Obama signed the health care bill into law Tuesday. They argue that the bill is unconstitutional because it requires people to buy health insurance.
The White House, however, has dismissed their argument. White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said the health care bill “will withstand the legal challenges.”
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in the capital are also launching their own assault on the health care bill. In an overnight session that lasted until early Thursday morning, Senate Republicans found violations on two provisions in the health care bill and forced the House to vote again on the bill.
The House is expected to quickly approve the amendments by the end of the week. Republican lawmakers, however, plan to continue to present more amendments in the Senate.