This op-ed originally appeared in The Washington Post on August 2, 2010.
A ‘sham’ executive order and ‘unenforceable’ abortion restrictions
By Marjorie Dannenfelser
Catholics United thinks it’s going to convince one of the savviest voting blocs in America that black is white and up is down. Its modus operandi: slinging accusations of partisanship at the Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life and the Family Research Council – pro-life groups doing the “dirty work” of holding politicians accountable. Chris Korzen’s piece in this section of the Post, “Pro-life movement and GOP politics: unholy alliance,” relied on the same hollow reasoning used by the “pro-life” Democrats he is now defending. His arguments come a day late and dollar too short to salvage the integrity of turncoats facing what, forecasters promise, will be a brutal election season for the party in power, a party committed to expanding abortion rights.
Amidst his finger-pointing, he misses the SBA List’s commitment to supporting authentic pro-life leaders on both sides of the aisle. Before the health care vote, we were preparing to defend pro-life Democrats in their home districts, even airing radios ads praising Bart Stupak’s steadfast pro-life leadership. And we have often called attention to one of the health care fight’s most unsung heroes, Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03), who held the line on abortion-funding while others in his party folded. Lipinski and a small handful of other pro-life Democrats quietly shared our grief and dismay at the defections of longtime pro-life Democrats like Bart Stupak and Kathy Dahlkemper.
Contrary to the attack Korzen is mounting, the reason “pro-life” Democrats like Brad Ellsworth and Kathy Dahlkemper are coming under fire is not that Republicans plan to win back Congress on a wave of misinformed anger. Sellouts who hide behind a sham executive order and the unenforceable promises of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are personae non gratae in their home districts because their pro-life constituents are too savvy to believe their lies.
Pro-life Members of Congress repeatedly condemned the accounting gimmick drafted into the health care bill, which allows for federal subsidization of insurance plans that cover abortion. The trouble the pro-life movement caused led pro-life Democrats to insist on including language from the Stupak Amendment, included in the original House bill in late 2009. But the final bill that many “pro-life” Democrats supported offered no solution to the accounting gimmick they originally opposed. Further, the Executive Order they now use as political cover, not only holds no weight in court but repeats the accounting gimmick and asserts that Hyde Amendment restrictions are maintained – the spirit of which it directly contradicts.
The Executive Order also offers an insufficient substitute for the bill’s of provisions preventing taxpayer-funding of abortion. The pro-life movement knew this was the case and the Obama Administration has recently admitted as much. As states began implementing high risk insurance pools just weeks ago, some tried to include abortion funding. Only after vigorous opposition from pro-life groups did the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issue a statement promising that there would be no such funding of abortion within these programs. But, the White House quickly inoculated the statement, stating that it was “not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program…”
In other words, the White House is leaving the door open for abortion funding elsewhere in the health care bill. A Congressional Research Service assessment confirmed that “neither the restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Presidential Executive Order 13535 nor the recently released HHS contract materials actually prohibit a state high-risk pool from covering elective abortions.”
Ignoring the facts? One of us is.
Because the Executive Order doesn’t fix the bill’s accounting gimmick, address other abortion concerns within it or, even hold up in court at the end of the day, only a legislative fix will prevent taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions.
Pro-life voters need to hold Congress’ feet to the fire. The timeline of events that has already unfolded proves that Obama and Democrats have no intention of addressing abortion-funding concerns until the pro-life movement raises them one by one. In fact, with election season upon us, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the only language “pro-life” Democrats speak is “ballot box.”
Pro-life watchdogs aren’t wrong to hold politicians to their promises. Our leaders are elected to represent the views of their constituents and when those leaders cease to do so, it is every voter’s right and obligation to elect someone who will. Our mission now is to show “pro-life” Democrats who supported the health care bill that their votes have consequences and to replace them with authentic pro-life leaders who won’t put party over principle.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of over 280,000 pro-life Americans dedicated to advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women in the political process.