Real Common Ground: Keep Abortion Out of Health Care

Marjorie Dannenfelser

12/2/2009 12:35:17 PM - Marjorie Dannenfelser

A group of coat-hanger laden abortion activists arriving on Capitol Hill today have one message for Democrats who voted for the Stupak Amendment excluding abortion from the House version of health care bill: back off. That message extends to Senators facing the same question now on a similar amendment expected from Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). The delivery of hundreds of thousands of coat hangers to offices of the 20 Democrats who voted with Congressman Stupak communicates, one presumes, that unless the federal government pays for abortion, women will abort their unborn children with wire coat hangers. Haven’t heard back on the question of where all those tragedies are now occurring, since the federal government (you and I) don’t currently subsidize or directly fund any abortion today. Yet their message is clear: House Democrats, you took a stand. Now sit down. Senators, don’t even think of standing.

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To follow that advice would be to inject abortion into the debate over health care, reverse decades of commonsense policy protecting taxpayers’ consciences, and reject the well-established common ground comprised of 60 plus majorities of men and women who oppose federally funded abortions. As intimidating as the coat hanger deliveries might be, the longer term effect of voting for a health care bill that involves each one of us in almost every abortion that takes place in the nation will be far more consequential in the minds and actions of voters.

If there were a Political Olympics, the messaging gold medal would go to President Obama, with a silver awarded to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Since even before his inauguration, President Obama overlaid his daily march to implement strident abortion policy with a palatable “need for common ground” theme. He largely got away with it, even while implementing the most unpopular decision in the early months of his administration – overturning the Mexico City policy that forbade the export of tax dollars to support abortions in other nations. In a Gallup poll, 60 percent of voters ranked this his worst decision.

The “common ground” talk continues today – he repeats the incantation while insisting taxpayers subsidize and directly fund almost every abortion at any stage of gestation that occurs in our nation. The “common ground” here could only exist within various strains of the abortion rights movement – compulsory versus voluntary pro-abortion camps? And now the messaging coaches have Majority Whip Senator Durbin leading even pro-life Democrats like Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey, Jr. and Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) to a new point: “Don’t let abortion be the health care spoiler.” Yesterday, Durbin said on a Missouri radio show: “We’ve got to find a common ground here. We cannot let this important issue hit the rocks over abortion.”

The best way to get abortion out of health care: take it out. Don’t make us pay for it. It is that simple.

Common ground already exists. Not only will preserving Stupak and Nelson language in the final bill affirm common ground on the issue (Gallup tracked 60 plus margins opposing funding and subsidies of abortion, majorities comprised of men and women, pro-life and pro-choice), but it will literally take it off the radar.

Senators must choose: for the coat-hanger crowd backed up with a powerful, monied abortion lobby or for the vast majority of Americans who do not want to be complicit and a decision-maker via funding for other people’s abortions. There is no question that “common ground” for Durbin, Obama and the Democratic leadership means generous, opaque language to allow abortion funding. But anything other than a straight prohibition includes, common sense dictates, funding for abortion. The language in the Senate bill now, embraced by NARAL and Planned Parenthood and rejected by pro-life Senators, House members and groups, is definitively not common ground.

Courageous Democrats in the House who voted to stand with the common ground majority and Senate Democrats who are either pro-life or reject federal funding of abortion as a anti-choice violation of taxpayers’ conscience must vote against final passage if it contains abortion funding and subsidies. The pressure to weaken is intense. But to vote for an amendment that strips abortion funding and then vote for any bill at final passage that restores that funding is a lose – lose situation. You lose the love of every abortion camp and you blow up common ground at an opportunity to preserve it. The SBA List PAC is watching those final votes as we prepare our target lists for the 2010 elections.

This historic vote will not be forgotten. The abortion activists lobbying today are demanding an extreme shift in abortion policy. They are emboldened to overreach common ground by an ideologically committed White House and Congress completely out of step with voters. Pro-lifers of course want protections for women and for unborn children. But that is not what we are debating. We simply do not think anyone should be compelled to pay for a practice that directly undermines our consciences and commitment. The majority of America agrees that even if they are ambivalent on the issue, they should not have to fund it.

Senate and House Members – especially those who say they are pro-life, have an opportunity to put that label into action by supporting a strong abortion exclusion amendment in any final passage of health care reform.