(Photo: AP Images / Alex Brandon)
President Obama accused those actively opposed to his drive for healthcare reform of “bearing false witness” Wednesday during a teleconference organized by members of the “Religious Left.”
In a ten-minute pitch to an estimated 140,000 people from various faith communities, Obama spoke out against what he branded "fabrications" whipped up by opponents of his policy, including claims that it would expand abortions, give health care to illegal immigrants and ration end-of-life care.
“This notion that somehow we are setting up death panels that would decide on whether elderly people get to live or die … that is just an extraordinary lie,” Obama said.
“You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortions. Not true,” he added.
"These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation - that is that we look out for one another, that I am my brother's keeper and I am my sister's keeper,” insisted the president.
In reframing the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” Obama implored the coalition of progressive religious leaders and lay - which included Faith in Public Life, PICO National Network, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good - to help promote his plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
Obama cited the role of religious organizations in earlier legislative fights for civil rights and programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
"Men and women of faith have helped to show us what's possible when we're guided by our hopes, and not our fears," Obama said. "That's what you can do again today to help us achieve quality, affordable health care for every American."
According to organizers, Wednesday’s “40 Minutes for Health Reform” teleconference included members of the faith community from more than 30 religious denominations and organizations, representing millions of people from the Evangelical, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
The call-in was part of a massive faith-based, pro-health care reform campaign that launched last week. The campaign, “40 Days for Health Reform,” involves faith leaders, mainly associated with the "Religious Left," from across America who have committed to urge their local and state representatives to support health care reform.
Their efforts contrast starkly with those of many conservative, pro-life groups and their leaders, who have been vocal opponents of the health care reform bill because they believe its ambiguous language on abortion coverage would leave the door open to the government funding the procedure.
Following Wednesday's teleconference, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins accused Obama of having "deliberately misled the American people" as he "knows very well that pro-abortion House and Senate Committees rejected every single amendment to keep abortion funding out of the health care overhaul."
"With this President, you must look at his actions because his rhetoric doesn't match his deeds," the conservative leader stated. "He fully intends to fund or subsidize abortion services in the health care overhaul."
Other groups that have criticized the proposed health care bill include Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and Traditional Values Coalition.