Monday October 11, 2010

Driehaus, Dahlkemper Lash Out at Pro-Life Counter Campaigns

By Kathleen Gilbert

October 8, 2010 ( – Two of the House Democrats who voted for the health reform bill are fighting back against political ads that accuse them of voting for taxpayer funding of abortion, one even filing a criminal lawsuit claiming that the Executive Order signed by President Obama fixed the abortion funding problem in the bill.

Rep. Steve Driehaus of Ohio filed a criminal complaint last Tuesday against the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List for purchasing billboards that read: “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion” – a message Driehaus claims is “factually untrue.”

In his complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission, Driehaus, who is in a tight race against GOP contender Steve Chabot, referenced the affidavits of Democrats for Life and Catholics United claiming that the federal health care legislation does not fund abortion.

Driehaus’s complaint claims that he and other “like-minded pro-life” Democrats were “successful in securing language in both the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and Executive Order 13535, ensuring that the PPACA would not permit or be construed as permitting taxpayer-funded abortions.”

However, in order to pass the bill without a conference committee, neither Democrat nor Republican House members were able to even slightly alter the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve.

Just days before the health care vote in March, Driehaus himself had confirmed that the bill, which remained unchanged since its passage in the Senate months before, did not contain adequate protection against taxpayer-funded abortion and said he would therefore oppose it. Driehaus switched his vote hours before the final tally.

In addition, with the sole exception of Democrats for Life, every major national pro-life group has agreed not only that the bill presented a major threat to pro-life interests, but also that the Executive Order purporting to fix the bill is inadequate. Even Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards dismissed the Executive Order as a “symbolic gesture.”

The National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. bishops’ conference have noted that, while the Executive Order provides a tenuous barrier to abortion funding via Community Health Centers, the document fails to address numerous other funding dangers in the bill. One example of such funding became clear in July, when several states were found to have applied for federal funding for Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans that would have included abortion, had NRLC not blown the whistle on the arrangements.

The company in charge of the billboards, Lamar Advertising, has agreed to hold off on erecting the billboards until the legal dispute is settled. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for October 14.

SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in turn chastised Driehaus for “stifling the free speech” of her organization by “us[ing] a criminal statute to silence his critics.”

“It is a fact that Steve Driehaus has voted for a bill that includes taxpayer funding of abortion,” said Dannenfelser, who pointed out that Driehaus’s “own affidavit refers to an Executive order which purports to undo the harms of the actual bill for which he voted.”

“At the very least one must conclude that the point is one of national dispute rather than one that comes under a criminal statute that is designed to punish blatant falsehoods,” she said. Dannenfelser vowed to respond to the complaint by expending even more energy to expose Driehaus’s vote.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, called Driehaus’ criminal complaint “pathetic.” “He’s a congressman, he has a public soap box, he has all sorts of megaphones by which he can articulate his position on this issue, and he’s done so,” he said. “And that’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

Johnson also pointed out that appealing to the Executive Order does not exonerate Driehaus from the SBA Lists’s charge.

“He’s not the president, he didn’t sign an Executive Order,” said Johnson. “He is a member of the House of Representatives who voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. So the question is, what’s in the bill he voted for?”

Lawyers with U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, another Democrat who capitulated and signed the bill hours before the final vote, have also demanded that similar advertisements by Americans United for Life be pulled from four Erie, Penn. radio stations. The ads assert that Dahlkemper’s vote facilitated “the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions ever.” AUL, which is targeting eleven other Democrats with the same message, is standing by the ads.

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