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GOP puts abortion, HHS mandate, and ObamaCare at center of government shutdown

Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – House Republicans moved this weekend to put ObamaCare's abortion provisions and the controversial HHS mandate at the center of the government shutdown debate.

The House passed a measure funding the government through December 15 – but it does not include one cent of funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Congressmen also added a provision to that bill that delays for one year any taxpayer subsidies for insurance plans that include elective abortion, as well as postponing the implementation of the HHS mandate.

Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act's HHS mandate, employers must provide all employees with insurance plans that include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception with no co-pay, or pay a fine of $100 per employee per day.

"My amendment protects people from the radical HHS mandate," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, "which violates millions of Americans' deeply-held religious beliefs, and it prevents taxpayer subsidies from going to insurance plans that include elective abortion coverage.”

The bill passed just after midnight Sunday by a vote of 231-192. Two Republicans (Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna, both of New York) voted against it, while two Democrats (Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina) voted yes.

“By delaying ObamaCare for one year, the House has shown we are listening to the American people who never wanted this law in the first place,” Blackburn said.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards immediately criticized the move, asserting in Politico that Blackburn would allow employers to deny women “potentially lifesaving treatment” such as “breastfeeding support, domestic violence counseling, [and] HIV testing.”

“Millions of women are getting birth-control pills, IUDs and implants without a copay, and millions more women will get this benefit over the next several months,” Richards wrote. “For the first time, birth control is being treated like what it is — basic, preventive health care.”

Planned Parenthood stands to benefit, both through insurance-paid abortion and as a distributor of taxpayer-funded contraception. 

The Blackburn amendment would merely delay, not eliminate, ObamaCare, abortion funding, or the HHS mandate.

Heritage Action for America, the activist arm of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, called the provision “a step towards preventing the law’s entitlements from taking root” – but not enough. “Defunding ObamaCare remains the best way to stop this law from harming individual citizens, our country’s health care system and our economy," writes Robert Bluey.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the House amendment “is not what Americans wanted, which is defunding ObamaCare.”

“We realize Republicans in the House of Representatives take seriously the dire implications of ObamaCare going into effect, which will put families, faith, and freedom at risk,” Perkins added. “We will continue to work to fully repeal this disastrous law."

The House leadership chose to add Blackburn's amendment after 72 Congressmen wrote – and released – a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking that he incorporate the provisions of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act into one of two government funding bills. That measure, introduced in March by Blackburn's Tennessee colleague Diane Black, would permanently exempt employers from the HHS mandate.

A congressman also reportedly tried to add a 20-week abortion ban to must-pass bills. Neither provision made it, crowded out by numerous economic provisions and incentives. 

However, Rep. Blackburn indicated a delay in implementing ObamaCare and the HHS mandate was the strongest measure that the GOP Senate minority would support.

“The best thing we can do right now is to implement a one year delay so we can continue to chip away at this disastrous law,” she said. “Working with my colleagues in the House, and with the help of Senator Jeff Flake's leadership in the Senate, we have been able to build strong support for a one-year delay of ObamaCare.” 

She, too, promised to “continue our fight to fully repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered solutions.”

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A government shutdown looms, as both the president and the Democratic Senate leadership have indicated they will not bend on funding the president's health care priorities.

Senator Ted Cruz said on Sunday's Meet the Press that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is “not willing to compromise” one iota on the bill. “His position is 100 percent of ObamaCare must be funded in all instances, and other than that he's going to shut the government down.”

Some policy experts say the term “government shutdown” is itself a misnomer. “I’m not sure why they’re so agitated,” Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute noted. “After all, the shutdown is really just a slowdown since only non-essential bureaucrats are sent home. And everyone winds up getting paid for those unplanned vacations.”

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