Rep. Patrick Kennedy: Federal Funding of Abortion Is ‘Not a Question of Morality’

March 25, 2010 - 3:59 PM
The Rhode Island Democrat also refused to say whether he thought it was morally right to take tax money from pro-life Americans and give it to health plans that cover elective abortion. 
Patrick Kennedy

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., poses for a picture with his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., at the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009. (AP File Photo/Sen. Patrick Leahy)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a professed Roman Catholic, told CNSNews.com Wednesday that federal funding of health plans that cover elective abortions is “not a question of morality” but “a matter of health -- public health.”
 
“Obviously there’s going to be some legal decisions that are going to be coming forward, I’m sure, that are going to adjudicate this,” Kennedy said at the Capitol. “But obviously, we’ve got to protect women’s health. Half of our population are women, and -- this is a matter of public health.
 
He added: “It’s not a question of morality or anything; it’s a matter of health -- public health. Our mothers, our sisters, our spouses, I mean, this is a simple issue. It’s not making any judgment on people. It’s just a matter of providing -- making sure that they’re safe. And there’s only one way to make sure they’re safe, and that’s making sure that it’s legal.”
 
Kennedy was responding to a question posed by CNSNews.com about the House version of the health-care bill, which contained an amendment sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) barring taxpayer funding of abortion – an amendment Stupak gave up last Saturday in exchange for an executive order from President Obama to that effect. 
 


CNSNews.com asked Kennedy: “The (Stupak)-Pitts amendment said that no federal funds can go to ‘cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.’ And President Obama’s executive order only says that the money a health plan uses to pay for abortions must be, ‘segregated,’ from the federal funds it receives. So, since Obama’s order allows federal funds to pay for some parts of health plans that cover abortion, doesn’t Obama’s order violate the plain language of the Stupak amendment?”

Kennedy also refused to directly answer a follow-up question from CNSNews.com: Do you think it is morally right to take tax money from pro-life Americans and give it to health plans that cover elective abortion?
 
"Again, it's a matter of -- we've got to make sure people are -- we have public health protected," Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), responded. "That's the role of government, is to make sure public health is protected. And government has a responsibility not to do anything other than ensure that the broadest interests of the public are protected.
 
"And in this case, you know, public health has been jeopardized in the past when these services have not been made available to over half of our population, because they're sought out all the same, whether people have a judgment about them or not, they're still sought. And when they are, they're not safe, and as such, women's lives are jeopardized in the process."
 
The amendment that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) succeeded in adding to the House health-care bill, as originally passed, reads:  "(a) In General -- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a women suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, of physical illness, place the women in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest."
 
To gain Stupak's support for the Senate Health Care Bill, Obama announced he would sign an Executive Order reaffirming that the Hyde amendment applies and that no taxpayer dollars would be used to pay for health plans that cover abortion.

A section of the president's executive order states: "The act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services in exchange plans (except in the cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires state health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office."

Critics say the executive order does not have the same force as law -- and could be rescinded by the president at any time.
 
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Transcript:CNSNews.com: The (Stupak)-Pitts amendment said that no federal funds can go to “cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” And President Obama’s executive order only says that the money a health plan uses to pay for abortions must be, ”segregated” from the federal funds it receives. So, since Obama’s order allows federal funds to pay for some parts of health plans that cover abortion, doesn’t Obama’s order violate the plain language of the Stupak amendment?
 
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.): Yeah, obviously there’s going to be some legal decisions that are going to be coming forward, I’m sure that are going to adjudicate this.  But obviously, we’ve got to protect women’s health. Half of our population is women, and they -- this is a matter of public health.
 
Rep. Kennedy: It’s not a question of morality or anything; it’s a matter of health -- public health. Our mothers, our sisters, our spouses, I mean, this is a simple issue. It’s not making any judgment on people. It’s just a matter of providing -- making sure that they’re safe. And there only one way to make sure they’re safe, and that’s making sure that it’s legal.
 
CNSNews.com: Do you think it is morally right to take tax money from pro-life Americans and give it to health plans that cover elective abortion?
 
Rep. Kennedy: You know, it -- again, it’s a matter of – we’ve got to make sure people are -- we have public health protected. That the role of government is to make sure public health is protected. 
 
Rep. Kennedy: And government has a responsibility not to do anything other than ensure that the broadest interests of the public are protected.  And in this case, you know, public health has been jeopardized in the past when these services have not been made available to over half of our population, because they’re sought out all the same, whether people have a judgment about them or not, they’re still sought.  And when they are, they’re not safe, and as such, women lives are jeopardized in the process.
 
CNSNews.com: OK, so, it is OK, then, to take money from pro-life Americans-- 
 
Rep. Kennedy (interrupting): I’ve just said what I’ve said. That’s all I’m going to say.