By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 25, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted on Wednesday that President Obama's executive order regarding abortion funding in the health care bill merely "reiterates" what was already stated in the bill, providing further fuel for critics who have blasted the order as useless for banning the abortion funding embedded in the bill.
During a back and forth exchange with reporters, Gibbs dodged direct questioning on the actual effect of the executive order, before agreeing that it was merely "a reiteration of what already exists." Part of the transcript of the exchange between Gibbs and reporters, as provided by the White House, is as follows:
Q: Does the President think that this executive order is necessary? Does he think that there was ambiguity in the law? Or does he think that there wasn’t any ambiguity but this was just done because people like Bart Stupak wanted it done?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would say the President believed that the law—the President has always believed that health care reform should be about that, not about other issues. The President did not, in health care reform, believe we did change the status quo and believes that this reiterates that it’s not changed.
Q: So he doesn’t think it’s necessary, it’s just reiterating what is already in the law?
MR. GIBBS: I mean, it’s an executive order so this isn't—I mean, it’s not a frivolous thing, Jake.
Q: No, of course not. But does this executive order change anything that the law already didn't do?
MR. GIBBS: It ensures that health care, the law the President signed yesterday, maintains the status quo of the federal law prohibiting the federal use—the use of federal dollars for abortion.
Q: So it is needed, that the law was not clear enough?
MR. GIBBS: The President reiterated that in the executive order.
Q: So all he’s doing is repeating what’s in the law?
Q: So it’s just—I mean, you can’t have it both ways. Either the executive order is needed to clarify something that’s not—
MR. GIBBS: No, I—again, I would refer you to the executive order and the statements that we made about this over the weekend.
Q: I read the executive order, and it says that’s a reiteration of what already exists.
MR. GIBBS: Well, there you go.
Pro-life leaders had strongly warned Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who had held out against the health bill for months over abotion funding, not to accept the executive order in exchange for his "yes" vote. Stupak ignored the leaders, insisting that the order "more than adequately protected ... the sanctity of life."
Shortly after announcing the agreement with the White House on Sunday afternoon, Stupak shocked his pro-life supporters by deriding a last-minute motion to include his own abortion funding ban in the bill as an attempt to "polticize life."
The title of the executive order, which Obama signed in a private ceremony Wednesday, is "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's Consistency with Longstanding Restrictions on the Use of Federal Funds for Abortion." As of Thursday afternoon, the White House's official link to the text of the order was unavailable.
While pro-abortion advocates have long dismissed pro-life concerns over the bill by claiming it would be governed by the current Hyde amendment, which bans federal abortion funding except in cases of rape or danger to the mother's life, top pro-life analysts have insisted that this claim was patently false.
Not unlike pro-life leaders such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards dismissed the executive order as a "symbolic gesture" and confirmed that the bill would "significantly increase access to reproductive health care."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Stupak Slams Pro-Lifers, Defends Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood Dismisses 'Symbolic' Executive Order, Declares Health Care Victory
Stupak Defends Health Bill Vote