Wednesday January 6, 2010

Dems Confirm: Health Negotiations Shut to Public

Leaders encourage pro-lifers to lobby district offices

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 6, 2010 ( – Democrat leaders on a tight timeline to pass President Obama’s health care overhaul have confirmed that they plan to skip a committee that would open the final debates to the public, leaving critics increasingly frustrated with an agenda that violates specific guarantees of health bill transparency Obama made on eight separate occasions.

Breitbart TV this week threw fuel on the fire of discontent with a Naked Emperor News video montage showing Obama promising repeatedly that the health care negotiations, seen by many to be the most important social policy overhaul in a generation, will be televised on C-SPAN. Yet Democrat leaders have not responded to a letter issued by C-SPAN requesting that the momentous final debates be opened to the network’s cameras, per Obama’s promise.

While giving no further comments on the transparency issue, the President has reportedly taken a much more active role in overcoming the final hurdle to the bill’s passage this week. After Democrat leaders began negotiations in earnest Tuesday, they topped off the day with a private conference at the White House with President Obama that evening. Politico reports that leaders of the Republican Party, which has been completely shut out of the negotiations, have identified 37 Democrats that they hope can be convinced to help them take down the health care juggernaut.

Democrats tentatively hope to push through the unpopular bill by the State of the Union address in late January or early February. A Rasmussen poll released Monday found that American voters opposed the bill 52%-42%; those with strong feelings against the bill nearly doubled those on the opposite pole, with 22% strongly in favor, and 43% strongly opposed.

The health care bill has been decried as a vast threat to pro-life values on various fronts, including promoting health care rationing and doctor-assisted suicide, but most notably for its expansion of abortion by allowing the unrestricted government funding of elective abortion for the first time since 1976.

In the scheme set up in place of a conference committee, the Senate health bill will simply be amended in an effort to win approval in both chambers – leaving the House bill, the only version with a Hyde-amendment ban on federal abortion funding, largely out in the cold. Abortion could remain a top obstacle, however, as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has said he will lead a group of conservative Democrats who would take down an abortion-funding bill.

Referring to the Senate bill’s abortion language, Rep. Stupak told a Michigan crowd Tuesday that “we’ll have to change it in conferences.” He also noted he was “not happy with the bill,” due in part to the exclusive deals given to many individual states that have been derided as bribes to win votes.

While the pro-life furor has largely swirled around the bill’s Hyde debate in recent months, some leaders are striving to remind pro-lifers of what they hold to be other dangerous aspects of the Senate health care bill.

Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins pointed out in a op-ed Wednesday that an amendment introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) requires health insurers to provide coverage for women’s “preventative care,” free of cost-sharing requirements.

The National Abortion Federation, says Hawkins, has expressed confidence that “prevenative care” would include abortion – meaning that insurers could ultimately be forced to cover abortion-on-demand should the bill pass.

“Senator Mikulski’s amendment is going to allow an already abortion-friendly Department of Health and Human Services, with leadership being appointed by President Obama, to deem abortions as ‘preventative’ care and force all Americans to pay for abortions through their tax dollars and health care premiums regardless of their stance on the issue,” she wrote.

Hawkins said this provision was particularly dangerous for preborn children diagnosed with an expensive-to-treat condition, for whom abortion may be pushed as the least expensive “preventative care” in a health economy more carefully rationed thanks to an increased dependence on government funding and approval.

“Sadly, there are many in the medical profession today who see the cure of many devastating diseases as simply the elimination of those pre-born with the diseases,” wrote Hawkins.

After several weeks of hopelessly tied-up congressional phone lines and overflowing voicemail boxes, pro-life leaders in the Stop the Abortion Mandate Coalition are encouraging grassroots forces to visit representatives’ district offices over the holiday to make their voices heard.

“Our Representatives and Senators have a lot to answer for while home over these next weeks,” wrote coalition leader David Bereit in a mass email January 4.

(Click here for Stop the Abortion Mandate Coalition’s holiday recess action toolkit.)

See related coverage:

C-SPAN Challenges Dems to Publicize Secret Health Bill Talks