H.R. 3962: Bad Medicine

Written by Tony Perkins


Washington Update, November 9, 2009

As the House adjourns to honor our veterans, most members are headed home after waging their own war over the attempted government takeover of health care. Well into Saturday night the clash over H.R. 3962 had produced a few principled heroes: leaders like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) who led a bipartisan coalition to protect the unborn--no matter the personal or political costs. In the end, their persistence paid off.

The Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Lipinski-Smith amendment to strip taxpayer-funding from the legislation passed 240-194 with incredible support from both parties.

A whopping 64 Democrats supported the measure, making this amendment one of the largest pro-life policy statements in Congress since Roe v. Wade. For FRC, who made abortion a focus of the health care debate even before President Obama took office, the amendment's passage was a huge victory.

Unlike so many votes in today's Congress, this one is representative of mainstream America. Seventy-one percent of men and women--regardless of party, race, income, or age--agree that abortion isn't health care. And while there may not be overwhelming consensus on abortion in America, there is a consensus that it should never be federally-funded. Even Democrats who aren't traditionally pro-life made a political calculation that the country is. On Saturday, they recognized that a cultural shift is underway on the acceptability of abortion in our nation--and that, in itself, is an accomplishment.

If there's one group that can't claim victory, it's Planned Parenthood. This vote was a stunning rebuke of their agenda in an arena they traditionally dominate. Even as their allies paraded across the House floor in support of the funding, they failed to persuade 240 congressmen that this amendment went beyond maintaining the status quo. Like the Hyde amendment, Stupak-Pitts prohibits federal funding from paying for abortion, or paying part of the cost of any plan that covers abortion.

But it does not prevent states, localities, or individuals from paying for abortion or insurance that covers abortion with non-federal dollars. The 17 states that currently pay for abortion coverage with their own money can continue doing so. Women can still buy plans that include abortion, but those plans can't get subsidies. In other words, federally-funded abortion was something this bill would have created. As Rep. Stupak said, "[This amendment] simply continues what has been the law of the land since 1977." Thanks to Representatives Stupak, Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J), H.R. 3962 will not be paid for with the lives of future generations.

Unfortunately, H.R. 3962 is still a seriously flawed piece of legislation, which, after passing by five votes (220-215), is one step closer to reality. In the beginning of the debate, FRC raised four major concerns with health care reform: taxpayer-funded abortion, rights of conscience, end-of-life rationing, and the financial costs to individual families. While the House did address the right to life, the other three issues are unresolved, and we remain opposed to the overall bill. Now the debate swings to the Senate, where the abortion issue is capable of creating an even deeper divide. Even Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged that it will be tough sledding in the Senate after an unconvincing win in Pelosi's chamber. "It's almost always easier to pass a bill in the House than in the Senate," he told reporters. "So the difficulties in the House show how tough it's going to be for us." FRC plans to make it even tougher, as we focus on strengthening the Senate language on abortion to match the House amendment. Once that's accomplished, our focus is simple: kill the bill.

Along the way, FRC plans to feature a unique piece of information that you might not know about H.R. 3962. Each day, we'll provide you with some fresh insight on this massive 2,000-page bill. Stay tuned for the first installment tomorrow!

Family Research Council: 801 G Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001
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