Obama’s Plan to Fund D.C. Abortions Shows He Is Not Seeking ‘Common Ground,’ Congresswomen Say
June 24, 2009 - 6:45 PMPro-life activists and members of Congress said President Barack Obama's claim that he wants to seek "common ground" with people who morally object to abortion and find ways to reduce abortions contrasts his actions, including his recommendation to revise an amendment in the 2010 budget for the District of Columbia and thus allow federal funds to pay for the procedure.
Under the Constitution, Congress is authorized to allocate funds for the District. The Dornan amendment, which was introduced in the D.C. budget in 1988 by then-Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) and included in the District’s budget for most of the last 20 years, prohibits both federal and local funds from being used for abortions in the District.
The amendment allows exceptions for abortions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
“One way to reduce the number of abortions and a way that works and one that is a common ground issue for the American people is to not allow taxpayer-funded abortions, period,” Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Pro-Life Women’s Caucus, said at a press conference outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
In Obama’s 2010 proposed budget the Dornan amendment would be changed. Below, in brackets, is the Dornan amendment followed, in italics, by the Obama administration’s proposed changes to that amendment:
SEC. 815. [None of the funds appropriated under this Act shall be expended for any abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or where the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest] (a) None of the Federal funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the Federal funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion. (b) None of the Federal funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which Federal funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. (c) The term health benefits coverage means the package of services covered by a managed care provider or organization pursuant to a contract or other arrangement.
SEC. 816. (a) The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed. (b) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure by a State, locality, entity, or private person of State, local, or private funds (other than a State's or locality's (sic) Contribution of Medicaid matching funds).
Majorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life advocacy group Susan B. Anthony List, said at the news conference that because Congress funds the District, the language stating “local” funds can be used for abortion means taxpayers will be paying for the procedure, and that the number of abortions will likely increase.
“This dramatic reversal of policy would also undermine common ground on the abortion issue if that common ground means reducing abortions,” Dannenfelser said. “What would D.C. funding of abortion do? What would tax-paying funding do? It would increase abortion in the District of Columbia to at least 1,000 more abortions per year.”
Schmidt noted that Obama said during his televised interview with the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church during the presidential campaign and in a speech the president made at the commencement ceremony at Notre Dame that he wanted to find “common ground” with people who disagree with his pro-abortion stance.
“I believe in Roe v. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion, but because, ultimately, I don’t think women make these decisions casually,” Obama said when Warren asked him about abortion. “I think they – they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors or their family members.
“And so, for me, the goal right now should be – and this is where I think we can find common ground,” Obama said. “And by the way, I’ve now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address.”
Obama also talked about respecting the views of pro-life Americans when he gave a controversial commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution.
“That’s when we begin to say, ‘Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions,’” Obama said at Notre Dame.
“So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term,” he said.
“So let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women,” Obama said.
Schmidt said by removing the Dornan Amendment, Obama would be “violating the consciences of millions of pro-life Americans to fund a procedure to which they object – based upon deeply held religious and moral belief – by allowing taxpayers to fund abortions.”
Schmidt said such action would also likely “increase the number of abortions performed” in the District of Columbia.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), also at the conference, said Obama is out of touch with the growing number of Americans who describe themselves as pro-life, as a recent Gallup poll showed.
“America is moving in exactly the opposite direction,” Bachmann said. “America is embracing the view of life.
“We want to put a marker in the ground here today in our nation’s capital saying, ‘We’re here for women, born and unborn,’” Bachmann said.
Keeping the Dornan Amendment “would be the common ground on the abortion debate,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). “We hope that President Obama and the Democrats will change their mind and stand with the majority of Americans who support the Dornan Amendment.”
Rep. Virginia Fox (R-N.C.) also attended the press conference.
The House Appropriations Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Financial Services appropriations bill, which includes the D.C. funding, after the Fourth of July congressional break.