By James Tillman

Washington, DC, October 8, 2009 ( – Yesterday CNS News reporter Fred Lucas asked White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, if the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was wrong in claiming in a recent letter to the Senate that the health reform bills considered in committee fail to prevent the use of federal dollars for abortion.

Gibbs responded: “Well, I don't want to get me in trouble at church, but I would mention there's a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion that isn't going to be changed in these health care bills.” 

Gibbs' statement echoes similar claims by President Obama, such as that made on August 20 when he said: “There are no plans under health reform to revoke the existing prohibition on using federal taxpayer dollars for abortions.”

A spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) responded to Gibbs' statements, however, saying that Gibbs “once again demonstrated that the White House is a partner in an ongoing smuggling operation, which if successful will result in funding of abortion on demand by the federal government.”

Pro-life commentators and legal analysts have pointed out that Gibbs' and the President's statements denying the abortion mandate in the health care reform are simply disingenuous. 

The prohibition to which Gibbs was apparently referring is the Hyde Amendment, which currently prohibits the use of federal money for abortions.  But, as Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List pointed out, the health reform plan is funded in such a manner that the Hyde Amendment would be utterly irrelevant to it. As formulated, nothing in the Hyde Amendment could stop the proposed plans from funding abortion.

“No matter how many times the President and his allies repeat it, the Hyde Amendment will not protect the taxpayer from government-funded abortion on-demand in health care,” said Dannenfelser. “The truth is, without an explicit exclusion, abortion will be covered in any public plan.  Abortion will also be subsidized by our tax dollars in private plans through government subsidies.

Language prohibiting this from happening “has been voted down five times, three times in the House and twice in the Senate just last week,” pointed out Dannenfelser. “All this dodging, weaving, and obfuscation by abortion advocates needs to stop.”

In fact, under the House healthcare bill (H.R. 3200), as amended by the Capps-Waxman Amendment, the public plan would be explicitly authorized to cover elective abortions.  The public plan would be a program within the Department of Health and Human Services, which, as a federal agency, could not pay for abortions with anything other than federal funds.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the NRLC, said that “Gibb's statement is one more proof, if any more were needed, that the White House is actively engaged in a political smuggling operation—an attempt to achieve funding of elective abortion by the federal government, cloaked in smokescreens of contrived language and outright deception.”

Johnson pointed out that “there is no current federal law that would prevent the new programs created by the pending health care bills from paying for abortion on demand—and the White House knows this full well.  Only language written directly into the bills would prevent government funding of abortions—but such language has been blocked by the Democratic chairmen of five congressional committees, with White House cooperation, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to allow the House to even vote on adding a true Hyde Amendment to the health care bill.”

“I worked with Henry Hyde and personally treasure the legacy of respect he left for women and the unborn,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser.  “He would be appalled to see his name used to defend the greatest expansion of government support for abortion on-demand since Roe v. Wade.  I encourage Americans to get the facts at, and then use that information to contact Congress and the President, and tell them to stop hiding behind Henry Hyde.”