Christian and pro-life groups are sounding the alarm over hidden abortion coverage in the already deeply contentious health care bill.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention – the nation's largest Protestant denomination – declared on Tuesday that "all pro-life Americans need to speak out and speak out now" about the health care bills being considered by Congress.
The conservative Christian leader warned that the current health care reform bill could "open the door" to the "greatest expansion of government subsidized abortions in our nation's history."
"Unless Congress specifically prohibits abortion services being covered as an 'essential benefit,' government bureaucrats will inevitably create an 'abortion mandate' for both public health insurance plans and publicly subsidized private plans," he explained.
In the 1,018-page health care bill, there is no mention of abortion much less federal funding for abortion. However, opponents of abortion are worried about the silence on the issue. They maintain that without an explicit barring of federal funding for abortion, it could be covered by tax dollars.
Even Democratic lawmakers are voicing opposition to the current health care bill that fails to clearly ban funding for abortion. Several Democrats went against their own political party, which has a history of supporting abortion rights, and joined Republican lawmakers Wednesday for a news conference highlighting the flaws in the legislation, including the abortion issue.
And in a June 25 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a group of 20 Democratic representatives stated: "We cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan," according to The Associated Press.
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, contends there is "really, really common ground on [the abortion] funding issues."
"Almost no one wants to fund abortion, regardless of their position on abortion as a whole," said the vocal pro-life leader, according to Politico.
Representatives of U.S. Catholic bishops have also criticized the current health care bill on the issue of abortion.
Bishop William F. Murphy of New York, representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), stated in a July 17 letter to Congress that "genuine" health care reform "protects" life.
"No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong," Murphy said.
President Obama, meanwhile, has dodged the question of federally funded abortion. In an interview with CBS news, he said, "Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings and not get distracted by the abortion debate."
Being that health care reform is Obama's top domestic priority, the president and the White House have aggressively tried to push the bill forward in Congress. However, they have been mostly unsuccessful as an increasing number of Democrats have recently expressed concern about the bill beyond the abortion issue.
According to a November 2008 Zogby poll, 71 percent of Americans do not want to pay for abortion nor have their employer provide health care that pays for abortion.
SBC ERLC president Richard Land argues, "Thomas Jefferson once said, 'To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.'"
"Imagine how much stronger his indignation would be at the prospect of the government forcing citizens to fund not only the propagation of ideas they abhor but underwriting what they consider to be the killing of unborn human beings," he said.
Several pro-life groups will be holding press conferences and sending letters to President Obama and Congress this week to express their strong opposition to the lack of explicit language barring federal funding for abortions in the health care reform bill.