Trying to pretend that he's a moderate voice, President Barack Obama is misrepresenting the history of federal funding of abortions.
Seeking to appease abortion advocates after the House voted to ban abortion coverage within new federal insurance plans, Obama told ABC News, "We're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. . . There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."
But without the House's Stupak-Pitts Amendment, the long-standing federal policy would be reversed. The policy is that federal insurance programs don't cover abortion unless it's rape, incest, or to save a mother's life. No artificial distinction is made between federal and private dollars.
Obama is offering a gimmick by proposing that “only” private dollars, which have been mingled with taxpayer money, could be spent on abortions — a bookkeeping sleight of hand.
An honest look at the history of federal funding for health insurance shows the falsity of Obama's argument:
The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan provides the insurance for millions of federal workers, including members of Congress. Administered through the federal Office of Personnel Management, that benefits plan lets workers choose from a variety of different health insurance plans. But since1996, the law has required all of these plans to exclude abortion coverage, excepting only rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
And it's not just the federal employees plan. Military insurance through TRICARE does not cover abortion unless the mother's life is at risk. Nor does the Indian Health Service.
Congressmen Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa., told The Washington Post that they purposely modeled their amendment to reflect the law that covers the federal employees plan and not to go beyond it. They're right.
Abortion advocates are in riot mode over Stupak-Pitts, even sending a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatening to kill the bill when it comes to a final vote. Obama is picking his words carefully to agree with that group while trying to sound moderate to everyone else.
He always tries to avoid the term “abortion” by euphemistically calling it “comprehensive reproductive services. But his extremism is on record, because he's told Planned Parenthood and others that he will even push to reinstate partial-birth abortion, through the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act."
But the “moderate” approach is the Stupak-Pitts amendment. It passed with a vote of 240-194-1, including 64 Democrats such as Dave Obey of Wisconsin, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Richard Neal of Massachusetts, and many others who normally vote on the left.
Obama says he wants to undo the vote, claiming, “There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo.”
Democrat leaders such as Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., predict that the pro-life language will be removed in any final conference report version of the bill.
Whether Obama and pro-abortion forces succeed on HR 3962 may depend on whether they can convince the public that they're reasonable defenders of the status quo, rather than the extreme advocates for abortion that they are.
The author, former U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, chaired the congressional subcommittee that funded federal insurance plans. He is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation
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