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U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell discusses the health care bill.

ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a vote on healthcare legislation five days after introducing it, hoping to get more support from Republican senators. In the meantime, pro-life advocates weighed in on the bill.

The Senate version remains closely faithful to the House bill, which passed last month. A few changes were made to appeal to fence voters, such as basing insurance subsidies on income, as Obamacare had done, rather than on age, as the House version proposes.

Simply put, conservatives criticize the bill for keeping too much of Obamacare, and liberals criticize the bill for cutting Medicaid to phase in universal healthcare.

But what does it mean for the pro-life cause? Christians can disagree on socialized medicine, but those who adhere to the pro-life tenets of historic Christianity are most concerned about their taxes paying for baby killing, the Obamacare forced abortion insurance coverage mandate, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

So far, the Senate version takes Planned Parenthood's half a billion annual government dole away. It also eliminates the Obama Health and Human Services forced abortion coverage mandate. However, one media summary of the Senate version states that it “excludes language restricting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions.”

That summary is not entirely accurate, according to other analyses of the bill. The bill clearly modifies the definition of “qualified health plan” to exclude a plan that provides coverage for abortions, and adds abortuaries to the category of “prohibited entities,” both with exceptions for rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother.

The current, updated Senate version does, in fact, exclude abortion businesses from receiving tax funding. As of press time, the Senate bill:

  1. Amends the IRS tax code to disqualify any healthcare plan “that includes coverage for abortions” from tax credit eligibility, with rape/incest/life exceptions.

  2. Eliminates the small employer health insurance credit for employee plans that cover abortions, stating specifically, “The term ‘qualified health plan’ does not include any health plan that includes coverage for abortions (other than any abortion necessary to save the life of the mother or any abortion with respect to a pregnancy that is the result of an act of rape or incest.”

  3. Eliminates federal funds from going for state Medicaid disbursements to abortion providers, with the exception of those facilities which abort in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother “as certified by a physician.”

So far, so good. Pro-lifers oppose rape and incest exceptions, but if the language in the Senate version is allowed to remain (which is the key question), then there is tentative support for the bill among those who value the sanctity of innocent human life.

Students for Life of America's Lisa Stover summarized the prickly political situation. “The current version of the bill has good intentions to block insurance plans in the marketplace from funding abortion,” she stated in a press release, “but nobody knows whether these measures will actually survive once the bill heads to the Senate floor.”

Additionally, Stover expressed concern that the bill “does not go far enough to completely block taxpayer funding of abortion in healthcare.”

“There are ultimately too many unknowns to make a case to support it at this point,” Stover concluded. “We are not in opposition, but we are waiting to see what the final bill will look like.”

The Family Research Council (FRC) and the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) issued a joint statement, both hopeful and critical, on the Senate version. “The healthcare bill must not indefinitely subsidize abortion and must redirect abortion giant Planned Parenthood's taxpayer funding to community health centers,” FRC President Tony Perkins and SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser stated. “The Senate discussion draft includes these pro-life priorities, but we remain very concerned that either of these priorities could be removed from the bill for procedural or political reasons.”

After clearly stating that any removal of pro-life provisions “could result in our opposition,” the pro-life leaders expressed cautious optimism. “We are confident that the pro-life Senate will ultimately move forward with our pro-life priorities intact.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini was not so optimistic. “While we appreciate the inclusion of language to redirect federal funds away from abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, the reality is that necessary pro-life protections in this bill will be stripped by the Senate Parliamentarian, as we have now publicly heard from two Senators,” her press release stated.  

In order to avoid having to have 60 votes to pass the healthcare bill in the Senate, the GOP is using a “budget reconciliation” rule that requires only 50 votes, but only for directly budget-related proposals. Therefore, pro-lifers are concerned that the Senate will enforce the budget-only rule and take out all pro-life provisions from the bill.

“If this happens, one of the most egregious aspects of Obamacare — tax credits for plans covering abortion — will continue under this administration and Congress,” Mancini predicted. “Abortion is not healthcare.”

Lila Rose of Live Action, like all the others, insists that the pro-life provisions must remain in the bill, or she and all pro-lifers will oppose it. She told the press that the Senate version “has the potential to go a long way toward eliminating taxpayer-funded support for abortion,” but she warned that “there are two critical components that must remain in the final version: the final bill must stop taxpayer funding to America's largest abortion chain, and it must prohibit the use of taxpayer subsidies to pay for insurance policies that pay for abortions.”

“Planned Parenthood's focus is selling abortions at the expense of delivering genuine women's healthcare,” Rose added. “Taxpayers aren't funding a women's healthcare organization; they're subsidizing an abortion chain.” The pro-life stalwart demanded that “the nearly half billion dollars that Planned Parenthood siphons away from the Medicaid system” must be “redirected to the thousands of federally qualified health centers across America that … actually provide authentic healthcare.”

The office of pro-life Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who as a leader in the House Freedom Caucus took tremendous heat from President Trump himself in February for holding out for a better healthcare bill, told LifeSiteNews that it is too early in the process to officially support or oppose the Senate version.  

When the House passed its pro-life version on May 4, Rep. Jordan commented, “Our efforts in the House Freedom Caucus to hold the line and improve the American Health Care Act have paid off,” noting “The legislation that passed the House today is better.”

All pro-life organizations agreed that the battle is raging right now, and urged every American who believes in the sanctity of innocent human life to contact their senators.  

“Everything we've been fighting for is at stake RIGHT NOW!” Stover pleaded. “Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion industry are pulling out all the stops to protect their massive taxpayer-funded cash flow. It's critical that you call BOTH of your U.S. Senators' offices TODAY!”

“Tell them to redirect taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood to community health centers, and tell them to ensure that NO abortion funding is allowed in healthcare reform,” Stover summarized. “Make the calls now! Get everyone else you know to make calls now! Let's make sure the Senate moves forward with our pro-life priorities intact.”

Stover's warning that pro-abortion forces are converging into attack mode over the Senate's Independence Day recess is no empty threat. With the vote now delayed until after the Senate's July 4 break, the National Abortion Rights Action League (also known as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, originally the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws), Planned Parenthood, MoveOn, Daily Action, and CREDO Action are organizing phone blitzes and local protests to pressure senators to vote against the bill. Likewise, liberal businesses such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) are using member funds to pay for TV ads against the bill.

As soon as it was introduced on June 22, four senators came out of the gate opposing the GOP plan: Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin; and Rand Paul R-Kentucky. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, quickly joined them, going so far as to say they will block even the procedural formality of voting to allow debate on the bill unless changes are made.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Cory Gardner, R-Colorado; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, either said they would not support the bill “as it is now without changes” or expressed grave “concerns.” Even conservative Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, despite his promises of bringing fiscal responsibility to the federal government, is under pressure from Gov. John Kasich to keep the state's recent Medicaid expansions.

McConnell and the Trump team are still trying to woo party skeptics and put together the 50 votes needed under “budget reconciliation” rules to pass the bill. Republicans can lose only two of their 52 senators to do so.

As they did in February with the original Republican attempt at a healthcare bill, many conservatives warn that this is the last chance to repeal Obamacare. The Washington Post predicts, “If the GOP does not disengage the country’s healthcare system from the disaster of Obamacare, we are headed for the misery of single-payer.”

“Single payer” healthcare is a socialized system financed by increased taxes, where the government covers (or decides not to cover) basic healthcare costs for all. Also known as “Universal Medicare,” a state or federal government agency would organize and authorize medical care for all qualifying citizens. Critics say such a system has proved in many countries to diminish care quality, cause years-long delays, including death for those needing life-saving treatment, and government cost/benefit analysis panels (often termed “Death Panels”) that have the authority to withhold care.

Yet most admit that something must be done, because insurance companies continue to abandon Obamacare. “If the GOP fails to pass the Senate healthcare bill, providers will continue to flee the Obamacare exchanges, leaving millions of Americans with no choices at all for buying health insurance.” For example, with the recently announced Obamacare pull-out of Anthem, at least 18 counties in Ohio will be without any healthcare insurer for individuals in 2018.

And as with every issue, a political dimension is at play. Repealing Obamacare was one of Donald Trump's biggest and most repeated promises during the campaign. The Washington Post opines that losing that issue would lose the Republican majority in Congress next year. “Betraying a core promise — the core promise — to the GOP base would lose the Senate and thus the Supreme Court.”

You can read the Senate version of the healthcare bill here.

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