Obama silent about provisions for abortion
WASHINGTON (BP)--The Obama administration has initiated an effort to dispel what it describes as "wild rumors" about health-care reform, but, perhaps tellingly, it does not seek to deny that current congressional proposals will result in government funding of abortion.
In his weekly radio address Aug. 8, President Obama sought to dismiss what he described as "the outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia or cut Medicaid or bring about a government takeover of health care."
"That's simply not true," Obama said. "This isn't about putting government in charge of your health insurance; it's about putting you in charge of your health insurance."
The White House launched a new website Aug. 10 to disprove "some common myths" about what it, as well as the president, called "health insurance," instead of health-care, reform. At the "Reality Check" site, staff members addressed what the White House described as "wild rumors and scare tactics" about such issues as euthanasia, health-care rationing, the plan's impact on small businesses and Americans' ability to keep their private insurance plans.
Neither Obama nor his White House mentioned abortion, however. There is a reason behind the White House's refusal to label abortion coverage in health-care reform as a rumor, a pro-life legislative expert told Baptist Press.
"The bills President Obama is pushing in Congress could create the biggest expansion of abortion in America since Roe v. Wade," said Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee's legislative director, in a written statement for BP. "The president is evading questions on the issue because he does not want to draw public attention to the sweeping pro-abortion provisions that are in the bills.
"Both Senate and House bills would, for example, create a nationwide federal insurance plan, the 'public option,' that would pay for all abortions," Johnson said. "Also, both bills would create a huge new program that would subsidize private plans that cover elective abortion.
"Unfortunately, much of the institutional news media is helping Obama hide these provisions," he said, "by disseminating unsophisticated and often flatly inaccurate descriptions of what the bills contain."
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down all state laws prohibiting abortion, legalizing the practice nationwide.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) reported in an Aug. 3 analysis that a health-care bill in the House of Representatives "does allow insurers to include abortion as a benefit and also allows federal money to be used for abortions." The ERLC said in its nine-page document that the America's Affordable Health Choices Act, H.R. 3200, would undoubtedly be interpreted to mandate abortion funding.
The Associated Press acknowledged in an Aug. 5 article that congressional measures would permit "a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions."
Obama -- while largely avoiding the subject of abortion lately -- was more direct when he was a candidate and told Planned Parenthood during a 2007 speech that abortion coverage is "at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose." He also said that "insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care."
Some of the criticisms targeted by Obama and his White House do not qualify as "outlandish rumors," according to various reviews of the health-care proposals.
Regarding concerns about the promotion of euthanasia, White House domestic policy director Melody Barnes said in a video on the "Reality Check" website that the proposals will not force euthanasia on anyone. There is "absolutely nothing mandatory about" even obtaining a living will, Barnes said.
In its analysis, however, the ERLC said a section in the House bill that likely would provide education about decisions near the end of life "could essentially encourage the premature death of the elderly" and could produce a "slippery slope that potentially leads to euthanasia."
A writer for The Washington Post said the provision in question, Section 1233 of the House bill, is not completely harmless.
The writer, Charles Lane, said in an Aug. 8 article the end-of-life consultations every five years are not "purely voluntary" and permit physicians to "initiate the chat and [the section] gives them an incentive –- money -- to do so. Indeed, that's an incentive to insist."
In those counseling sessions, many senior adults would "bow to white-coated authority," agreeing to "end-of-life directives" they normally would not, he said.
That section of the bill "goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it," Lane wrote. "Indeed, the measure would have an interested party -- the government -- recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don't have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach."
On rationing, Kavita Patel, a doctor who works in the White House's office of public engagement, said on a video on the "Reality Check" site that health-care rationing already occurs. Insurance companies practice it, she said.
"The reality right now is that there is widespread rationing in the form of health insurance telling you what you can and what you can't have," Patel said. "But the notion that the government will interfere with what you have -- it really is laughable."
The ERLC's analysis, however, said health-care rationing would result if the House bill is enacted in its present form, and, even if the public option does not survive, rationing would be likely because of the requirements imposed on private insurance companies.
In addition, according to the ERLC, government officials, rather than private citizens, would determine the type of health care received by Americans under the public option established by the secretary of Health and Human Services.
Three House committees have approved H.R. 3200. A Senate panel has endorsed a health-care reform proposal, but the Senate Finance Committee is seeking to craft a bipartisan version. Both chambers are in recess until Sept. 8.
The ERLC's analysis of H.R. 3200 is accessible online at www.erlc.com.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, with reporting by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.