The Senate health committee approved legislation Wednesday that would expand insurance coverage to nearly all Americans but also would empower federal officials to mandate coverage of abortion on demand in virtually all health plans, according to critics.
On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved a massive bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on a 13-10 party line vote. A day earlier, the House Democratic leadership unveiled a similar 1,000-page bill, H.R. 3200, which President Obama said "will begin the process of fixing what's broken about our health care system."
"And by emphasizing prevention and wellness, it will also help improve the quality of health care for every American," Obama added.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), however, says the Kennedy bill and the House Democratic leadership bill will result in "the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade."
"These bills, which President Obama is pushing hard, would result in federally mandated coverage of abortion by nearly all health plans, federally mandated recruitment by abortionists by local health networks, and nullification of many state abortion laws. They would also result in federal funding of abortion on a massive scale," he reported Wednesday.
Before approving the Kennedy bill, the Senate HELP Committee rejected a series of NRLC-backed amendments offered by pro-life Republican members of the committee. Specifically, the committee's Democrats – with the exception of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) – voted down an amendment by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) to prevent health plans from being required to pay for and provide access to abortions, an amendment by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to prevent federal funding of abortions, and an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) to prevent nullification of many state laws regulating abortion.
"The pro-abortion majority even rejected a second Coburn amendment to protect the right of health-care providers to refuse to participate directly in providing abortions," the NRLC reported.
According to the pro-life organization, both the Kennedy bill and the House bill (H.R. 3200) would empower federal officials to mandate coverage of abortion on demand in virtually all health plans. Both of these bills would also result in massive federal subsidies for abortion on demand, require expansions of abortion providers in many areas of the country, and result in nullification of at least some state abortion regulations.
"The pro-life movement needs to go to Condition Red on these bills, because they pose a mortal threat to the unborn and they are on a fast track to enactment," commented Johnson.
NRLC is urging pro-lifers to send messages to their two U.S. senators and to their representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, to urge them to oppose any federal "health care reform" legislation that does not contain explicit exclusions of abortion.
"In addition, please telephone the offices of your two U.S. senators, give your name and address, and tell the senators' staff persons that you wish to be recorded as 'opposed to Senator Kennedy's health care bill because it would result in mandates for virtually all health plans to cover elective abortion, and would result in federal funding of abortion on demand,'" the group added.
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, it would 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 Obama sign it.
Obama has said he wants a bill on his desk in October and has praised House and Senate versions of a bill to expand health care coverage to millions of Americans.
During a Rose Garden speech on Wednesday, Obama said the progress from Congress makes him hopeful but should not let lawmakers become complacent.
The president also said health care overhaul will be done this year, brushing off doubts and congressional delays.
"Don't bet against us. We are going to make this happen," he said.
Obama's top domestic priority is revamping the nation's health care system.