By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 13, 2009 ( – Unless legislators take steps to make Obama's healthcare reform package explicitly exclude abortion from “healthcare,” the new government-sponsored health plan will undoubtedly provide for a vast expansion of abortion, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Congressman Chris Smith are warning.  A senate committee today rejected amendments proposed by the NRLC to explicitly exclude abortion from the healthcare package, leaving intact the fears of pro-life legislators that the reform package will unfetter U.S. abortions in a way similar to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

The trouble lies in the unqualified 'essential benefits package' the bill will promote: experts say legal precedent in America is clear that such a broad term can be used to include abortion.  And because public and private plans will be required to meet the minimum benefit mandate, say pro-lifers, the draft bill will eventually require virtually every American to pay into a plan that covers abortion, as well as a vast expansion of the availability of abortion.
“The two central 'health care reform' bills currently moving in Congress – the Kennedy bill and the House Democratic leadership bill – each contain provisions that would, if enacted, represent the greatest expansion of abortion since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1973,” said NRLC Federal Legislation Director Douglas Johnson in a press release Friday. 

“These bills contain multiple provisions that would result in federally mandated insurance coverage of abortion on demand, massive federal subsidies for abortion, mandated creation of many new abortion clinics, and nullification of at least some state limitations on abortion.”

Johnson explained to (LSN) today that the bulldozing of pro-life protections flows from what he calls the “abortion mandate” embedded in the bill.

“We know from a great deal of experience and many court decisions that [an 'essential benefits package'] will include elective abortion unless Congress explicitly says otherwise,” said Johnson.

“Once abortion is defined – as it would be – an 'essential benefit,' then other things flow from that,” he continued.  “The law requires that every health network show that it has adequate access to these mandated services. … So you would have federal bureaucracy refusing to certify health plans unless they show they have local access to abortion. There would have to be the establishment of many more abortion providers across the country to meet this mandate.”

Even that, said Johnson, would not change America's abortion landscape enough to fit the scope of the bill. 

Asked whether he foresaw the elimination of state abortion regulations such as waiting periods under the reform package, Johnson replied, “that would certainly be targeted as an obstacle to what's now under this bill … a federally guaranteed service.  It's in conflict with the purpose of the federal law.”

Asked about the bill's similarity in effect to FOCA – legislation that would make abortion a “right” not subject to any government regulation – Johnson said the bills as they stand “have kind of a built-in Freedom of Choice Act.”

“There may still be some particular situations or laws that touch on abortion outside the context of healthcare delivery so that I don't say they exactly duplicate each other,” he said, “but the major purpose of the FOCA to strike down [abortion regulations such as] the parental notification, the waiting period – these kind of things would be, quite likely, nullified under this healthcare legislation. 

“But the general principle is quite clear in the bill: that once the feds have said this is a service you have a right to, no state could stand in the way of it.”

Johnson said the bills as they stand “have kind of a built-in Freedom of Choice Act.” said that amendments the NRLC proposed to fight the implicit abortion expansion were rejected by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee this afternoon.

On Thursday Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, issued a letter to members of Congress containing a selection of quotes from the pro-abortion lobby discussing healthcare reform as a tool for the expansion of abortion in America.

One quote from Obama himself, prior to his election, described “reproductive care” including abortion as the “heart” of his idea of healthcare reform.

“Well, look, in my mind reproductive care is essential care, basic care so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose,” Obama told a Planned Parenthood Action Fund Event in July 2007 during a Q&A session. 

Obama also indicated that he expected all insurers to be forced to cover abortion, saying: “Insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care … that's going to be absolutely vital.”

Smith also reprinted quotes from the National Abortion Federation, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and RH Reality Check similarly supporting the healthcare package as including “reproductive health.”

“If the proposed plan moves forward without an explicit exclusion that ensures that abortion is excluded from any government mandated or government subsidized benefits, health care reform will be a death sentence for thousands of unborn children,” wrote Smith.

See related coverage:

Pro-Life Democrats Unite to Protect Unborn Children in Healthcare Restructuring 

Abortion Proponents See Red after Senator Proposes “Office of Unborn Children's Health” in Healthcare Bill 

Keep Abortion Out of Health Care Reform Says Head of USCCB Committee 


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