Americans by the tens of thousands are making it clear to Congress that any health care legislation being considered should exclude abortion as a mandatory health benefit.
In just one week, over 65,000 Americans have joined with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) by signing a national petition demanding that safeguards be enacted to ensure that abortion is not mandated or subsidized in legislation "as important and future-shaping as healthcare reform."
Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony List reported Tuesday that over 100,000 letters from pro-life activists nationwide were sent to Congress urging the exclusion of abortion from any national health care reform effort.
"The opposition to defining abortion services as a mandatory health benefit is clear," commented ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow in a statement Tuesday. "It's time that Congress gets the message: When it comes to mandatory health benefits, Americans don't want their tax dollars – or forced private insurance plans – used to fund abortion."
Currently, two health reform bills are moving in Congress – the Kennedy bill and the House Democratic leadership bill – that contain multiple provisions that would result in federally mandated insurance coverage of on-demand abortion, large federal subsidies for abortion, mandated creation of many new abortion clinics, and nullification of at least some state limitations on abortion.
According to pro-life groups, the provisions – if enacted – would represent the greatest expansion of abortion since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing the procedure in 1973.
"Obviously, we all know what is taxed, what is subsidized, what tax money is used for will expand," explained Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family's vice president of Government and Public Policy, last week during a special teleconference that drew more than 36,000 people.
"If abortions are subsidized, we'll get many thousands more abortions. Many thousands of unborn children will die if abortion is covered in these regulations," he added.
The legislation has especially drawn criticism given past comments by President Obama stating that he wanted to make abortions "rare," and acknowledgments as recent as last week of America's "tradition ... of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care."
"Americans are urging members of Congress to preserve the real common ground, our long-standing tradition of limiting taxpayer funds for abortion. This is exactly the type of policy the president has sought to achieve, one that stands the test of time, has popular support and appeals to members on both sides of the aisle," said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. "Yet both the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation seek to undo this commonsense policy."
Currently, both the House and the Senate are rushing to meet their self-imposed deadline of getting bills through both chambers before leaving Washington for their annual August recess.
Presuming legislation makes it through both chambers, they would still have to be melded together by House and Senate negotiators – a process that plenty of bills never survive – and then passed again in final form by both the House and the Senate. Only then can the president sign it.
Obama has said he wants a bill on his desk in October and has praised House and Senate efforts to expand health care coverage to millions of Americans.
The president has also said the public should become less focused on whether abortion would be covered under federal healthcare.
In an interview with CBS Evening news anchor Katie Couric last Tuesday, Obama said what's important "at this stage, is not trying to micromanage what benefits are covered ... because I think we're still trying to get a framework."
"[M]y main focus is making sure that people have the options of high quality care at the lowest possible price, " he stated, before saying it is not appropriate to get "distracted by the abortion debate at this station."
Obama's top domestic priority is revamping the nation's health care system.