President Obama is 'Fabricating'—Not Cardinal Rigali and the Catholic Bishops—About Abortion Funding in Health Care Plan
August 20, 2009 - 4:51 PMCardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and President Obama have taken directly contradictory positions on whether the health-care bill in the U.S. Congress funds abortion.
Cardinal Rigali says the bill does fund abortion and that those who say otherwise are pushing an “illusion.”
President Obama says the bill does not fund abortion and that those who say otherwise are guilty of a “fabrication.”
Who is right and who is wrong?
Cardinal Rigali laid out his position in a carefully reasoned and detailed argument presented in a pastoral letter sent to the U.S. House of Representatives on August 11.
President Obama laid out his position in two terse sentences in a short speech to a religious audience on BlogTalkRadio yesterday. President Obama did not present a detailed argument for his position or make any reference to any specific provision in the bill itself.
Here, verbatim, is how Cardinal Rigali explained that federal money would indeed go to pay for abortions through the federally subsidized system of health insurance that the bill would be create (the bolded words in this passage are bolded in the Cardinal’s original text):
“Because some federal funds are authorized and appropriated by this legislation without passing through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, they are not covered by the Hyde amendment and other federal provisions that have long prevented federal funding of abortion and of health benefits packages that include abortion. The committee rejected an amendment to extend this longstanding policy to the use of federal subsidies for health care premiums under this Act. Instead the committee created a legal fiction, a paper separation between federal funding and abortion: Federal funds will subsidize the public plan, as well as private health plans that include abortion on demand; but anyone who purchases these plans is required to pay a premium out of his or her own pocket (specified in the Act to be at least $1.00 a month) to cover all abortions beyond those eligible for federal funds under the current Hyde amendment. Thus some will claim that federal taxpayer funds do not support abortion under the Act.
“But this is an illusion. Funds paid into these plans are fungible, and federal taxpayer funds will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortions.”
President Obama not only disagrees with Cardinal Rigali’s conclusion that the bill funds abortion because it funds abortion providers, but in his short speech to a religious audience on BlogTalkRadio yesterday he said that those who say the bill funds abortion are not telling the truth.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate. And there’s some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness,” Obama said near the beginning of his talk.
A little deeper into his talk, Obama said: “You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true. This is all--these are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. And that is that we look out for one another. That I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
Did President Obama rebut Cardinal Rigali’s clear and specific argument?
When the Energy and Commerce Committee approved the amendment to its version of the health care bill that spelled out the way the bill would handle abortions in federally subsidized health insurance plans, the liberal New York Times did its best to describe the amendment in a way that would be amenable to the predictable spin that Obama and others who want to deny that it funds abortions would put on it.
But even in the New York Times’ explanation, the basic fact is impossible to ignore: The bill mandates that everyone getting federal subsidies to buy health insurance must have an opportunity to buy health insurance that covers abortion.
Reported the Times:
“By a vote of 30 to 28, the committee approved an amendment setting forth abortion policy. The proposal, offered by Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, was supported by most Democrats and opposed by Republicans.
“The amendment said abortion could not be included in the ‘essential benefits package’ to be defined by the government. Further, it said insurers would not be required or forbidden to cover abortion. But, it says, in every part of the country, the government must ensure that there is at least one plan that covers abortion and at least one that does not.
“Under the bill, health plans would receive federal subsidies to help pay premiums for low-income people. But under the amendment, subsidies could not be used to pay for abortions.”
In fact, under the terms of both the House and Senate bills, it is not only "low income people" who will qualify for federal subsidies to buy insurance, but also people making up to 400% of the poverty level ($88,000 for a family of four). The bill will guarantee all such federally subsidized insurance purchasers the ability to buy an insurance to plan that covers abortions. Therefore, federal money will pay for abortion coverage.
To put it more bluntly, this health care bill will take money away from hard-working, decent, pro-life taxpayers and hand it over to insurance providers that pay doctors to kill unborn babies.
Verdict: Cardinal Rigali told the truth, Obama did not.