Category Archives: FedLeg

U.S. House Passes Permanent Ban on Federal Funding of Abortion

WASHINGTON – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nationwide federation of right-to-life organizations, today commended the 251 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to pass the landmark No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), but directed sharp criticism at President Obama and at the 175 House members (all of them Democrats) who voted against the bill.

“There are over one million Americans who are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment policy – but President Obama, although he claims to seek abortion reduction, continues to work against that policy,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  “The White House veto threat demonstrates yet again that President Obama is determined to expand federal subsidies for abortion on demand – despite his verbal smokescreens.  The 175 House Democrats who voted against the bill will be firmly marked as supporters of federal subsidies for elective abortion.” 

The bill was supported by 235 Republicans and 16 Democrats.  It was opposed by 175 Democrats.

In a candid opinion piece titled “Time to Stand Up for Abortion Funding,” published today on a blog operated by The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Jessica Arons – who is director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress (a nonprofit organization with very close ties to the Obama White House) – called on pro-abortion members of Congress to drop the pretext that they do not seek to establish federal funding of abortion.  “First, stop referring to the Hyde Amendment as an ‘historic compromise’ or ‘settled law’,” Arons advised.  “Such language only reinforces the misconception that abortion funding restrictions are necessary and proper. They are not. . . . .  Finally, mount a full-throated defense of public funding for abortion – or rather of comprehensive health care that includes abortion coverage, regardless of the funding source.”   (http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/159173-time-to-stand-up-for-abortion-funding)

For many years, federal funding of abortion has been limited by a patchwork of laws – many of which expire annually, because they are incorporated into annual appropriations bills.  The best known is the Hyde Amendment, but this law applies only to funds that flow through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill, and it expires annually.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (“Obamacare”), enacted in 2010, opened new pipelines for federal funding of abortion, which are not governed by the Hyde Amendment or any other statutory restriction (see http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/ProtectLifeActDouglasJohnsonTestimony.pdf).  H.R. 3 would codify the principles of the Hyde Amendment on a permanent, government-wide basis, applicable to both longstanding federal health programs and to the new programs created by the PPACA.

Further details on specific components of H.R. 3, including conscience protections for pro-life health care providers and a provision applying to the District of Columbia, are found in NRLC’s May 3 letter to the House of Representatives (http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCLetterToHouseOnHR3.pdf), and in a Q&A factsheet issued by the office of Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), the prime sponsor of H.R. 3 (http://chrissmith.house.gov/UploadedFiles/2011_Q_and_A.pdf).

 The National Right to Life Committee is the nation’s largest pro-life group with affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide. National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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ICYMI: “Time to codify Hyde principles”

Earlier this week, National Right to Life Legislative Director Douglas Johnson wrote a piece for The Hill’s Congress Blog calling for passage of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR3) sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.) and the Protect Life Act (HR358) sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.)  The full piece is pasted below.

Time to codify the Hyde amendment principles
By Douglas Johnson – 03/01/11 10:28 AM ET

Innumerable polls show that the great majority of Americans reject the notion that abortion should be regarded as a routine part of “healthcare.” For example, a 2010 Zogby/O’Leary poll found that 76 percent of Americans said that federal funds should never pay for abortion or should pay only to save the life of the mother.

Until the 2009-2010 Congress, federal law for the most part reflected this majority opinion. The Hyde Amendment, for example, annually prohibits any funds that flow through the Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill from funding either abortions or managed care plans that cover abortion (except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest). Another example: For decades, the hundreds of private health plans that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program have been prohibited from covering elective abortions.

During the 111th Congress, the House of Representatives initially acted to apply these same principles to legislation to restructure the healthcare system. In November, 2009, the House voted 240 to 194 in favor of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which would have prohibited federal subsidies for elective abortion in any component of the healthcare legislation.

Regrettably, the bill later muscled into law by President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid — the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) — contained no such language. Instead, we find an array of abortion-expanding provisions, concealed behind a hodge-podge of artful exercises in misdirection, bookkeeping gimmicks, loopholes, and provisions that are rigged to expire.

President Obama tried to further cloak the abortion-expansive provisions of the bill with a hollow executive order –a document that was dismissed by the president of Planned Parenthood as a “symbolic gesture.”

Last July, while implementing the very first major component of the law, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan program, HHS happily approved state-submitted plans that explicitly covered elective abortions. When National Right to Life threw a spotlight on this development, the administration made a discretionary decision to exclude abortion from the program, although nothing in the PPACA prohibited such abortion coverage.

Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “What is disappointing is that there is nothing in the law that requires the Obama administration to impose this broad and highly restrictive abortion ban.” Nancy-Ann DeParle, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, assured the pro-abortion activists that the discretionary decision to exclude abortion from the PCIP program “is not a precedent for other programs or policies” under the PPACA.

You can bet on that. The PPACA explicitly authorizes refundable “tax credits” (essentially, entitlement payments that are not related to actual tax liability) to purchase health plans that will cover all abortions — a sharp break from the principles of the Hyde Amendment. The PPACA authorizes the Office of Personnel Management to administer “multi-state” plans that are implicitly authorized to cover elective abortions. The PPACA provides $9.5 billion in funding for community health centers, which pro-abortion activists have targeted as new abortion-providing sites, without any restriction on the use of these funds for abortion. And the list goes on.

These abortion-expansive provisions would be corrected by enactment of the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). The bill is closely patterned on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment — indeed, Prof. Sara Rosenbaum of the George Washington University School of Public Health, testifying against the bill, acknowledged, “I would say this bill would bring health reform into line with what originally was Stupak-Pitts.”

The bill also contains important safeguards to prevent health care providers from being penalized for refusing to participate in providing abortions. Such protections are badly needed in the face of accelerating campaigns by groups such as the ACLU and the National Health Law Program to force individual and institutional healthcare providers to choose between providing abortions or abandoning the healing arts.

What is ultimately needed, however, is a clear, comprehensive, uniform policy to prevent federal subsidies for abortion. This would be provided by enactment of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), currently with 208 cosponsors. The House Judiciary Committee will mark up H.R. 3 on March 3.

Opponents of these bills have frantically sought to manufacture diversionary issues, such as the claim that the Smith-Lipinski bill contains tax hikes (imaginary), or that the Pitts bill would somehow discourage insurers from covering treatments for injuries caused by abortions (utterly baseless). The core policies contained in these bills have already been in effect for decades for the FEHB program, Medicaid, the military and most other federal health programs, and experience belies the imaginative claims to the opponents.

During the initial congressional debates over federal funding of abortion during the 1970s, the pro-abortion side engaged in similar scare tactics — claiming, for example, that the Hyde Amendment would result in a huge increase in abortion-related morbidity and mortality. Instead, there was no measurable increase at all — but, as I noted in recent congressional testimony, another dramatic effect did occur: Well over one million Americans are alive today, who otherwise would have died in federally funded abortions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, this is a “tragic result.” But anyone who advocates “abortion reduction” — a goal to which even President Obama has given lip service — should embrace the Pitts and Smith-Lipinski bills to codify and extend the principles and the lifesaving effects of the Hyde Amendment.

Douglas Johnson is the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

NRLC Urges U.S. House to Reject “DISCLOSE Act”

For immediate release:                                        
Thursday, May 27, 2010             

NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE URGES U.S. HOUSE TO REJECT “DISCLOSE ACT” AS “A CORRUPTION OF THE LAWMAKING POWER”

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2010) — The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states, today urged the U.S. House of Representatives to reject the “DISCLOSE Act” (H.R. 5175), which it called a “bullying political power grab,” which is “not a curb on corruption, but itself a type of corruption — a corruption of the lawmaking process, by which incumbent lawmakers employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves.”  NRLC said that it would include the dispositive roll calls on the measure in its scorecard of key votes for the current Congress.

 The four-page letter, signed by NRLC Executive Director David N. O’Steen and Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, said that the bill “has been carefully crafted to maximize short-term political benefits for the dominant faction of one political party, while running roughshod over the First Amendment protections for political speech that have been clearly and forcefully articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court.”  The letter discusses a number of ways in which the legislation is designed to “to discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as NRLC) from communicating about officeholders, by exposing citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, and by smothering organizations in layer on layer of record keeping and reporting requirements, all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions.”  The letter suggests that the bill be amended to clarify that “DISCLOSE” actually stands for “Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites.”

 The House Democratic leadership had apparently intended to bring the bill to the House floor tomorrow (May 28), but — faced by a rising chorus of protests from a broad array of organizations — has now postponed floor action until the week of June 7.

 The letter is available here: http://nrlcomm.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/discloseletter

 NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson  and Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T.  Muskett, J.D. are available to provide comment and analysis of the “DISCLOSE Act.”  Please contact the NRLC Communications Department at (202) 626-8825 to arrange an interview.

 The National Right to Life Committee is the nation’s largest pro-life group, with affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide. 

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NRLC Letter to U.S. House Against the “DISCLOSE Act”

(Download in PDF format: NRLCletteronDISCLOSEAct.pdf)

May 27, 2010

RE: “DISCLOSE Act” (H.R. 5175)

Dear Member of Congress:

The House of Representatives soon may take up the so-called “DISCLOSE Act” (H.R. 5175), sponsored by Congressman Van Hollen. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), representing affiliated right-to-life organizations in all 50 states, is strongly opposed to this legislation, which was crafted in response to the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC (2010). NRLC intends to include the roll call on passage of this legislation in its scorecard of key votes for the 111th Congress, and reserves the right to also score key procedural votes on the measure.

NRLC is the furthest thing from a “shadow” group. Our organization’s name and contact information always appear on our public communications, and we openly proclaim the public policies that we advocate. There is very little in this bill, despite the pretenses, that is actually intended to provide useful or necessary information to the public. The overriding purpose is precisely the opposite: To discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as NRLC) from communicating about officeholders, by exposing citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, and by smothering organizations in layer on layer of record keeping and reporting requirements, all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions. Indeed, the bill would benefit from a truth-in-labeling amendment to clarify that “DISCLOSE” actually stands for “Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites.”

All of the cant by backers of this legislation about “buying elections” and “protecting democracy” is intended to obscure the reality that neither NRLC nor any other incorporated group has any power whatever to “influence elections,” no matter how much money is available, except by informing and persuading individual citizens – all of them adults with a presumed capacity to make up their own minds about which messages they will accept and act on. It is precisely that process of informing and persuading that the crafters of this legislation fear and seek to suppress – all the while seeking to hide their self-serving purposes behind layers of sanctimonious, pseudo-populist rhetoric.

As eight former members of the Federal Election Commission pointed out in a May 19 letter to the Committee on House Administration, “the FEC now has differing regulations for 33 types of contributions and speech and 71 different types of speakers.” The federal laws and regulations governing “political” speech already consume more than 800 pages, and the FEC has published more than 1,200 pages in the Federal Register explaining its decisions. But that is not enough for the sponsors of H.R. 5175, because the bill would add 90 pages of additional barbed-wire regulatory barriers to speech about policymakers and pending legislation.

Most of the bill’s byzantine requirements would take effect 30 days after enactment – without any regulations to guide organizations through the legal minefields it creates. Moreover, Section 401, which contains unusual and convoluted judicial-review provisions, “represents the maximum possible effort to leave unconstitutional provisions in effect as long as possible,” as the minority members of the Committee on House Administration pointed out in their dissenting views to the Committee’s report [Report 111-492].

The bill would codify a vague and expansive definition of “express advocacy” under which any expenditure for a public communication that “takes a position on a candidate’s character, qualification, or fitness for office” might be deemed to be an “independent expenditure” and therefore subject to numerous burdensome and intrusive regulations. The bill applies this vague standard not only to broadcast ads very near elections, but to any public communication – broadcast or print – at any time of the year, and even to paid ads on the Internet.

In addition, the bill’s re-definition of so-called “electioneering communications,” which is a broadcast communication that merely mentions the name of a member of Congress, will now trigger sweeping and burdensome regulations beginning 120 days (four months) before a general election – a dramatic expansion of the current law (which applies 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election). For example, an organization that sponsors a single radio ad costing $10,000 or more that says no more than, “Call Congressman Jones – urge him to support the First Amendment by voting no on H.R. 5175″ – would be required to publicly identify every donor of more than $1,000 to the organization (whether or not the donation was spent on the ad) throughout the year.

Our members and supporters have a right to support our public advocacy about important and controversial issues without having their identifying information posted on the Internet, exposing them to harassment or retribution by those who may disagree with their beliefs. As the eight former FEC commissioners noted in their May 19 letter, “In this, DISCLOSE infringes on the First Amendment rights of private association recognized by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958) . . . Such information gives political parties and officeholders powerful information to bully advocacy groups and intimidate individuals into supporting their endangered candidates and agenda.”

The bill also seeks to deter the exercise of First Amendment rights by requiring both chief officers and major donors of issue-oriented organizations to actually appear in broadcast ads (both television and radio) to express their approval of the contents. Some totalitarian governments use radio-frequency “jamming” to try to prevent their citizens from hearing broadcasts that contain information critical of those who hold power; the sponsors of H.R. 5175 hope to achieve the same result by requiring incorporated citizen groups to “jam” their own communications with useless verbiage that could consume one-third or even one-half of the message time.

But of course, the real purpose of such requirements is not to inform, but to deter potential donors from financially supporting the work of groups such as NRLC in the first place.

Under Citizens United, curbing corruption is the only permissible justification for restricting political speech. Yet, under the proposed law, the federal government would dictate to a 75-year old woman with health problems, who holds strong religious convictions and who wishes to promote enactment of the Protect Life Act, that she is free to donate money to a pro-life group to be used for broadcast ads to urge specific elected officials to vote for the bill – but only if she (if a “significant funder”) is willing to submit to the intimidating requirement that she appear in those ads herself, and also have her name and address posted on the Internet, so that she can be subjected to verbal abuse or even threats by those who disagree with her views.Enactment of such a law is not a curb on corruption, but itself a type of corruption – a corruption of the lawmaking power, by which incumbent lawmakers employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves. Frankly, the crafters of this bullying political power grab should be ashamed of themselves.

(It is sad, but perhaps not surprising, that the bill is being promoted by many organs of the mainstream media corporations, in reports that are largely silent on the bill’s more odious provisions. Under the bill, these are privileged corporations that are explicitly exempted from its provisions [for example, see Section 103(b)] – even though the U.S. Supreme Court said in Citizens United, “We have consistently rejected the proposition that the institutional press has any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers.”)

Under the pretense of re-defining “coordination” (in Section 103), the legislation also seeks to effectively force issue-oriented corporations such as NRLC to choose between representing their members by lobbying Congress about pending legislation, or acting effectively in the political realm by participating in political discussions about elections. Specifically, an organization such as NRLC would be allowed to urge a “candidate” to adopt NRLC’s position on an issue, but only “so long as there is no discussion . . . regarding the candidate’s campaign for election for Federal office.” [See Sect. 103(b)] Thus, any organization that exercises its First Amendment rights by discussing both policy and politics with the same “candidate” would be deemed to forfeit the right to conduct “independent expenditures” beginning 90 days before the pertinent primary and extending through the general election – a period of up to 12 months.

The provisions we have summarized, among others, clearly violate the principles laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of landmark First Amendment rulings, culminating in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, 551 U.S. 449 (2007) and Citizens United. And, the authors of the bill know this full well. Yet, they hope to ram this legislation into law – including a specific provision making it effective 30 days after enactment, without any interpretative regulations from the FEC – to set up legal minefields that they hope will, for at least a year or more, deter disfavored organizations from effectively communicating with the public about the public policy agenda of the current Administration and of the dominant faction of the majority party of the current Congress.

In summary, this legislation has been carefully crafted to maximize short-term political benefits for the dominant faction of one political party, while running roughshod over the First Amendment protections for political speech that have been clearly and forcefully articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court. We urge you to reject this attack on the First Amendment rights of your constituents and the private organizations with which they choose to associate, by opposing H.R. 5175.

Sincerely,
David N. O’Steen, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
(202) 626-8820
Legfederal@aol.com

Obama Perpetuates Abortion Funding Myth in Joint Address

For immediate release:                                        
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 9:30pm   

OBAMA PERPETUATES ABORTION FUNDING MYTH
IN JOINT SESSION ADDRESS

 WASHINGTON – In his address to a joint session of Congress tonight, President Obama said, “One more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

 Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, commented: “Barack Obama needs to learn that the mere repetition of a verbal formula does not change reality.  The reality is that the Obama-backed House bill would explicitly authorize the federal government insurance plan to pay for elective abortions and would explicitly authorize subsidies for private abortion insurance — and all with federal dollars, which are the only kind of dollars that the federal government can spend.”

 The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) last week released definitive memoranda that demonstrate that (1) the “Hyde Amendment” would not apply to the new programs that would be created by the Obama-backed health bill, H.R. 3200, and (2) that all of the funds that would be spent on elective abortions under the bill, and all of the funds that would be spent to subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortion, would be “federal funds” in both the legal sense and in the sense in which those terms are used throughout the government. 

 “The claim that a federal agency would be spending private funds on abortion, not federal funds, is absurd on its face, a political hoax,” Johnson said.

 To read a September 8 NRLC media advisory that summarizes these issues, click here.  The advisory contains links to the detailed memoranda that disprove the “Hyde Amendment myth” and the “government will spend private funds on abortions myth.”

 The National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s largest pro-life group is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and 3,000 local chapters nationwide. 

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NRLC: news media duped by Obama on abortion

For immediate release: Tuesday, September 8, 2009, at 2 PM EDT 

National Right to Life on the health care debate:
“On government-funded abortion, Obama has duped the news media with head fakes and doubletalk”

NRLC releases two new memoranda refuting “the Hyde Amendment myth” and “the private funds myth.”

WASHINGTON (September 8, 2009) — The following statement may be attributed to Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), which is the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states.

 The health care legislation being pushed forward by President Obama would create a federally run insurance plan that would pay for elective abortion with government funds.  The legislation also would provide massive tax-based subsidies to purchase private insurance plans that would cover elective abortions.  Both of these new programs would represent drastic breaks with decades of federal policy against funding abortions in government-subsidized health programs.

 Yet, in recent weeks, much of the news media have been manipulated by top Congressional Democrats and by the White House into denying or minimizing the abortion-related policy changes that are being advanced.  Many journalists have casually adopted highly misleading characterizations of the abortion-related content of the legislation — characterizations that cannot survive careful scrutiny.  For example, many journalists have been snookered into reporting that House Democrats amended their legislation (H.R. 3200) so that the proposed government-run insurance program would be paying for elective abortions with “private funds” — a claim that is absurd on its face, and that cannot survive thoughtful and skeptical scrutiny.

 It is past time for the would-be factcheckers to stop acting as stenographers for the president and Speaker Pelosi on this issue.  Here are some facts for them to check:

 *  In 2007, Barack Obama made face-to-face promises to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  Asked about his plans for “health care reform,” Obama said, “in my mind, reproductive care is essential care.  It is basic care, and so it is at the center, and at the heart of the plan that I propose.”  He also stated, “What we’re doing is to say that we’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance.  It’ll be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.”  The Obama campaign confirmed (and nobody disputes) that “reproductive services” includes elective abortion.  You can watch a short video clip of Mr. Obama making the promises here or here.  Obama has never publicly repudiated those promises.  

 *  The health care bills approved by Democrat-controlled committees in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate during July would fulfill the Obama promises to Planned Parenthood, as quoted above.  This advisory focuses only on the House bill, H.R. 3200, although the bill approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on July 15 has the same basic problems and more.  (The abortion-related provisions of both bills are summarized in a two-page document posted here, and are explained in a detailed, footnoted memorandum here.)

 *  As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee with the Capps Amendment (or Capps-Waxman Amendment) on July 30, the House health care bill (H.R. 3200) would explicitly authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to pay for elective abortion under the government-run insurance plan (the “public option”).  As FactCheck.org concluded in its August 21 analysis titled “Abortion:  Which Side is Fabricating?,” “Obama has said in the past that ‘reproductive services’ would be covered by his public plan, so it’s likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that.”  The abortion coverage would not be optional; no person would be allowed to enroll in the public option without contributing to the abortion fund.  

 *  Amendments backed by NRLC to expressly prohibit the government plan from covering elective abortions were opposed by the Democratic chairmen of all three House committees that considered the legislation, and defeated in each committee — a result for which the White House staff has taken partial credit.  (As The American Prospect reported, “Advocates were able to ensure that both the House tri-committee bill [H.R. 3200] and the Senate HELP bill made it through committee without any amendments limiting access to reproductive care.  But as Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, told a July 15 Planned Parenthood conference — perhaps in an effort to tamp down expectations — ‘That was not easy.  It was not easy in committee.  It won’t be easy to hold on the House floor.  It won’t be easy to hold on the Senate floor.’”  From “Aborting Health Reform: Without reproductive-health coverage, any public insurance plan is doomed to fail,” by Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect, August 18, 2009, http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=aborting_health_reform)

 *  The House Democratic leadership has already publicly said that they will not allow the full House to vote on the amendment (the Stupak Amendment) to exclude elective abortion from the government plan and to prevent subsidies from flowing to private plans that cover elective abortion.  This means that a vote to advance H.R. 3200 is a vote to create a federal government insurance program that would fund elective abortions, and also a vote to create a federal government premium subsidy program that would help pay for private insurance plans that cover elective abortions.

 THE “PRIVATE FUNDS” MYTH

 *  Since July 30, the White House, dozens of congressional Democrats, and many news media “factcheckers” have publicly asserted that the Capps Amendment provides that the “public option” may not spend “federal funds” on elective abortion, but only “private funds.”  Such statements have been made, for example, by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), by President Obama (who said on August 19 that it was a “fabrication” to suggest that the bill would result in “government funding of abortion”), and many others.  Yet, the claim that a federal agency would be paying for a service with “private funds” is beyond misleading — it is absurd on its face.  The public plan would be an arm of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), part of the federal Executive Branch.  Once the agency collects “premiums” from enrollees, they would be as much “federal funds” and “public funds” as any funds collected by the IRS. 

 * Under the Capps Amendment, abortion providers would send their bills to DHHS and receive payment checks drawn on a federal Treasury account.  It is perplexing that so many in the news media are being duped into adopting the untenable pretext that a federal agency would be expending “private funds.”  In reality, this would be direct federal government funding of elective abortion.

 *  Aside from the public plan, H.R. 3200 and the Capps Amendment explicitly authorize the proposed premium subsidies to go to private insurance plans that cover elective abortions – which is something that would not be permitted under any of the existing federal health programs (for federal employees, military, Medicaid, etc.).  These subsidies would be federal funds that would flow directly from the federal Treasury to the insurers.  Regardless of how the books are kept, when the government pays for insurance, the government pays for what the insurance pays for.

 *  On September 7, NRLC issued a detailed memorandum demonstrating all of the funds that the “public option” would expend for elective abortions are “federal funds” and “public funds” as those terms are defined in law and as they are used throughout the government.  The memorandum also demonstrates that all of the funds in the premium-subsidy program would be federal government funds.  The memorandum cites documents from the CBO, GAO, Congressional Research Service, and other authoritative sources.  It is here:
http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCmemoFederalFundsnotPrivateFunds.html

 THE HYDE AMENDMENT MYTH

 *  Throughout his career as an Illinois state senator, a U.S. senator, and a presidential candidate, Barack Obama consistently opposed all limitations on government funding of elective abortion.  During his presidential campaign, he expressed explicit opposition to the Hyde Amendment, the annually renewed provision that prevents federal Medicaid funding of abortion (with narrow exceptions).  Recently, some journalists have reported that Obama endorsed the concept that the government should not fund abortions in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, broadcast July 21, but Obama really did no such thing. Instead, he simply made a head fake — an artful observation that “we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care.”  Obama did not endorse the “tradition.”  Certainly, it is true that there is such a tradition – a tradition that Obama has always opposed, and which the Obama-backed health care bill would shatter.

 * There is another deception that is being widely employed — again, with little critical scrutiny from the news media.  During the just-completed congressional recess, innumerable congressional Democrats told their constituents that the pending legislation would not result in government funding of abortion because the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion.  (Examples are found here and here.)

 *  In reality, the Hyde Amendment is not a government-wide law — it applies only to funds appropriated through the annual appropriations bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services.  As National Right to Life has pointed out for months, and as the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service confirmed in two memoranda issued in late August (which we now have obtained and posted on our website), none of the funds that would be expended by the public plan, and none of the funds that will subsidize the purchase of private insurance plans, will ever flow through an HHS appropriations bill.  Therefore, none of the funds will be covered by the Hyde Amendment.  Many Democratic lawmakers have directly misinformed their constituents by telling them that the Hyde Amendment will apply — and, for the most part — the news media have simply transmitted the misinformation, or actually adopted the false claim as fact.

 * President Obama himself has made statements of artful indirection involving the Hyde Amendment, in addition to the Katie Couric interview referred to above.  For example, on August 20, 2009, Obama said at a health-care forum, “There are no plans under health reform to revoke the existing prohibition on using federal taxpayer dollars for abortions.  Nobody is talking about changing that existing provision, the Hyde Amendment.  Let’s be clear about that.  It’s just not true.”  This statement was another trademark head fake by Obama.  It is true that the Obama-backed health bill does not directly revoke the Hyde Amendment — and it is also entirely irrelevant, because Obama’s congressional allies have carefully crafted the bill language to allow government funding of elective abortions using federal money that is not covered by the Hyde Amendment. 

 * On September 3, NRLC issued a memorandum that explains in detail why the funds in question will not be affected by the Hyde Amendment.  The NRLC memo quotes from, and links to, two new Congressional Research Service memoranda, and other official documents.  It is here:
http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCmemoHydeAmendmentWillNotApply.html

 THREE QUESTIONS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA

 As the White House warms up its smokescreen generators for a heavy workload during the week ahead, National Right to Life now suggests three questions for the President:

 (1)  Mr. President:  During your campaign for President, you promised the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that funding for “reproductive care,” including abortion, would be “at the heart” of your health-care plan, and that the “public plan” would cover such services.  The pending House bill, with the Capps-Waxman Amendment, would explicitly authorize your secretary of Health and Human Services to cover all abortions in the government insurance plan, the public option.  If Congress enacts that language, would your Secretary fulfill your promise to Planned Parenthood by covering abortions in the public plan, OR would you order her NOT to cover elective abortions under the government plan?

 (2)  Mr. President:  Speaker Pelosi, among others, has insisted that if the public option does pay for abortions, the abortions will be paid for with “private funds.”  National Right to Life says that this is misleading and absurd — that as a matter of law, the funds that would be spent by DHHS under the public option would be federal funds, public funds.  Do you embrace the notion that a federal agency, writing checks drawn on a federal Treasury account, would be expending “private funds,” and if so, is that a concept that you think could be applied to other federal agencies — for example, the CIA, the Pentagon, or the Department of the Interior?

 (3)  Mr. President, in recent weeks, you and your staff have made several references to the Hyde Amendment, a provision of the annual appropriations bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services.  For example, you said that the pending healthcare bill would not “revoke” the Hyde Amendment.  National Right to Life says this is a “head fake” — that is, irrelevant with respect to the pending healthcare bill, because none of the money expended by the public option or by the premium-subsidy program would be covered by the Hyde Amendment.  However, the Hyde Amendment does cover the federal Medicaid program, and the Hyde Amendment expires every September 30.  National Right to Life points out that you have always opposed the Hyde Amendment.  Are you willing to change that position now, and to pledge now that you will actively support renewal of the Hyde Amendment next year, and each year for the remainder of your term, so that federal Medicaid funds would not be used to fund elective abortions?  And if you are not willing to make that promise, are you willing to at least promise that you will not, next year or in any subsequent year, issue a veto threat on an HHS appropriations bill because the bill would renew the Hyde Amendment?  And if you are not willing to make either of those promises, why should anyone believe that the Medicaid program will not be paying for elective abortions by the end of your term (in addition to the abortions that would be paid for under the new programs that would be created by H.R. 3200)?

 ****

 Addendum:  Some members of Congress have even managed to mix the “Hyde Amendment myth” and the “your government will be spending private funds myth” together.  For example, in an August 28, 2009, “telephone town hall,” here, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) said: “Another myth that’s being thrown around is that health insurance reform uses money for abortions.  Not true. . . . Next, the House bill states, and I quote, health insurance providers aren’t required to or prohibited from offering abortion coverage.  The cost of such coverage would be exclusively paid by premiums, not by public subsidies.  Public funding for abortion would be permitted only as under current law, that’s the so-called Hyde Amendment, named after Henry Hyde, who I served with in the House.  And as you know, that is in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.”

New Resources on Abortion in Health Care

WASHINGTON (August 15, 2009) – The purpose of this e-mail is to alert you to a number of new documents available on the NRLC website, dealing with the abortion-related implications of the health-care restructuring bills that are being pushed by the White House.  The new resources include the following:

 – A new and detailed NRLC memorandum that documents the abortion-related problems with the two bills that President Obama and the White House are pushing:  Senator Kennedy’s bill (as yet unnumbered) and the House Democratic leadership bill, H.R. 3200.  This analysis contains numerous citations to primary sources.  It includes an examination of the Capps Amendment, a “phony compromise” that was written by hard-core pro-abortion lawmakers and adopted over pro-life objections in one House committee on July 30.  Among other objectionable elements, the Capps Amendment explicitly authorizes coverage of all elective abortions in the proposed new government health insurance program (the “public option”).  This memo, dated August 13, 2009, can be viewed or downloaded here (PDF format).

 – A one-page summary of abortion-related problems with the bills, here.

 – An August 5, 2009, Associated Press story, “Government insurance would allow coverage for abortion,” by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, here.

 – A detailed update on the current state of the debate in Congress, sent to NRLC affiliates and supporters nationwide on August 7 in the form of a page 1 article in the National Right to Life News.  This article can be viewed in your web browser here or downloaded in PDF format from here.

 – A special webpage set up by NRLC to highlight the pro-abortion activities of Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Oh.), who impersonates a pro-life lawmaker in the media in order to undercut the efforts of the real pro-life lawmakers of both parties, here.

 – A new letter sent to members of the U.S. House by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on August 11, urging the lawmakers to vote against the “rule” – the procedural bridge by which H.R. 3200 would be brought to the House floor in September — unless the rule allows consideration of amendments to remove the pro-abortion components from the bill.  To view or download the letter (PDF format), click here.

Youc an also visit www.nrlc.com/AHC/index.html for these and other documents on abortion in healthcare.

Tim Ryan: Pro-Life Impersonator

Congressman Tim Ryan (D- Oh.) has become a major asset to the pro-abortion lobby in Washington. In recent weeks, for example, Ryan has worked with pro-abortion groups to undermine the efforts of the pro-life members of the U.S. House of Representatives (of both parties) who are seeking to remove pro-abortion provisions from the health care bills being pushed by the Obama White House.

Although Ryan’s voting record in recent years is NOT pro-life, he continues to impersonate a pro-life lawmaker in order to undercut genuine pro-life initiatives in Congress. Therefore, NRLC has set up a special web page that links to several detailed documents regarding Ryan’s pro-abortion activities, including a report by veteran NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. This report contains quotes critical of Ryan from multiple pro-life groups and from key pro-life members of the House of Representatives.

The page also links to a recent article about Ryan published by The Weekly Standard.

To visit the new NRLC page on “Tim Ryan, pro-life impersonator,” click here .

AP confirms: Obama plan would allow abortion coverage

For more information:
Federal Legislation Department (202) 626-8820, legfederal@aol.com 
or Communications Department at (202) 626-8825, mediarelations@nrlc.org.

AP confirms:  Obama plan would allow abortion coverage 

 As the Associated Press accurately reports in a new story below, the health care legislation being pushed by the Obama White House would cover elective abortions.  Under the Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, “the public plan — and private insurance offered in the exchange — would be allowed to cover abortion, without funding restrictions,” the AP reports.  Phony “compromise” language approved by a House committee, over pro-life objections (the Capps Amendment), would authorize the new government-run “public plan” to cover elective abortions, and also permit new federal premium subsidies to flow to private plans that cover elective abortions.  “Under either the Senate bill or the House bill, the federal government would run a huge system of subsidizing elective abortion,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  For further information and documentation, visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center at www.nrlactioncenter.com.

 ************

August 5, 2009

Associated Press

 Original URL:  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jE8oH07rubGHV6lmgcgIGJFdUdkAD99SLQBG0

 Gov’t insurance would allow coverage for abortion
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR (AP)

WASHINGTON — Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.

Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to cases involving rape, incest or danger to the health ["life"] of the mother. Abortion opponents say those restrictions should carry over to any health insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned under the legislation, an exchange where people would choose private coverage or the public plan.

Abortion rights supporters say that would have the effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions of women who now have it through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange.

Advocates on both sides are preparing for a renewed battle over abortion, which could jeopardize political support for President Barack Obama’s health care initiative aimed at covering nearly 50 million uninsured and restraining medical costs.

“We want to see people who have no health insurance get it, but this is a sticking point,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We don’t want health care reform to be the vehicle for mandating abortion.”

Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said abortion opponents “want an abortion ban in private insurance, and that’s not neutrality at all — that’s a radical departure from current law. They want something far more extreme than where I think the American public is.”

A compromise approved by a House committee last week attempted to balance questions of federal funding, personal choice and the conscience rights of clinicians. It would allow the public plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds, only dollars from beneficiary premiums. Likewise, private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be used to pay for the procedure.

“It’s a sham,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life. “It’s a bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan.”

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., author of the compromise, said she was trying to craft a solution that would accommodate both sides. Her amendment also would allow plans that covered no abortions whatsoever — not even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother — to be offered through the insurance exchange.

“With all due respect, not everyone adheres to what the Catholic bishops believe,” said Capps, who supports abortion rights. “Our country allows for both sides, and our health plan should reflect that as well.”

For years, abortion rights supporters and abortion opponents have waged the equivalent of trench warfare over restrictions on federal funding. Abortion opponents have largely prevailed, instituting restrictions that bar federal funding for abortion, except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered.

A law called the Hyde amendment applies the restrictions to Medicaid, forcing states that cover abortion for low-income women to do so with their own money. Separate laws apply the restrictions to the federal employee health plan and military and other programs.

But the health overhaul would create a stream of federal funding not covered by the restrictions.

The new federal funds would take the form of subsidies for low- and middle-income people buying coverage through the health insurance exchange. Subsidies would be available for people to buy the public plan or private coverage. Making things more complicated, the federal subsidies would be mixed in with contributions from individuals and employers. Eventually, most Americans could end up getting their coverage through the exchange.

The Democratic health care legislation as originally introduced in the House and Senate did not mention abortion. That rang alarm bells for abortion opponents.

Since abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts on both sides say not mentioning it would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage.

It would mirror the private insurance market, where abortion coverage is widely available. A Guttmacher Institute study found that 87 percent of typical employer plans covered abortion in 2002, while a Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2003 found that 46 percent of workers in employer plans had coverage for abortions. The studies asked different questions, which might help explain the disparity in the results.

In the Senate, the plan passed by the health committee is still largely silent on the abortion issue. Staff aides confirmed that the public plan — and private insurance offered in the exchange — would be allowed to cover abortion, without funding restrictions.

Under both the House and Senate approaches, the decision to offer abortion coverage in the public plan would be made by the health and human services secretary.

Abortion opponents are seeking a prohibition against using any federal subsidies to pay for abortions or for any part of any costs of a health plan that offers abortion. Such a proposal was rejected by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the same panel that approved Capps’ amendment.

But abortion opponents say they can’t accept a public plan that would cover abortion. And they say private plans in the insurance exchange should offer abortion coverage separately, as an option.

“You can have a result where nobody has to pay for other people’s abortions,” said Doerflinger.

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said applying the current restrictions for federal employees and low-income women to a program intended for the middle class will provoke a backlash.

“There is a difference between picking off one group of women here and one group there and something that would affect a very large group,” Hartmann said. “Everyone would like to avoid that fight.”

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Letter to Senate on Sotomayor

The following letter was sent by National Right to Life to members of the U.S. Senate on July 27, 2009.   

 July 27, 2009

 The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221 The Capitol   
Washington, D.C.  20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Republican Leader
S-230 The Capitol
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell:

On behalf of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states, we write to express the opposition of our organization to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

 As a judge, Ms. Sotomayor has encountered little in the way of abortion-related litigation, either at the district court or the court of appeals.  In the single ruling that she authored that bore directly on an abortion-related federal policy, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, the result was unambiguously governed by the precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Second Circuit.  Yet, there are many troubling indications that Ms. Sotomayor believes that it is the proper role of the U.S. Supreme Court to construct and enforce constitutional doctrines on social policy questions, even where the text and history of the Constitution provide no basis for removing an issue from the realm of lawmaking by the duly elected representatives of the people.

 Legal abortion on demand was imposed by seven Supreme Court justices in Roe v. WadeRoe was an exercise in judicial legislation, aptly branded “an exercise of raw judicial power” by dissenting Justice Byron White.  The ruling lacked any real basis in the text of the Constitution, and imposed a policy that was completely at odds with the intent of the lawmakers who crafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. 

 The evidence indicates that Ms. Sotomayor approves of the Roe ruling and approves of the type of judicial activism that produced it.  For a period of 12 years (1980-1992), prior to becoming a judge, Ms. Sotomayor served on the governing board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), and for part of that time she was the chair of the PRLDEF Litigation Committee.  During her tenure on the board, the PRLDEF was actively involved in litigation that attempted to persuade the Supreme Court to expand the judge-created “right to abortion,” often beyond what the Court was willing to embrace.  During this period, the fund joined briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court in six abortion-related cases.  These briefs urged the Court to regard abortion as a “fundamental right” (a right on the level of freedom of speech), to apply the strictest standard of scrutiny when reviewing abortion-regulated laws, and thereby to nullify informed consent requirements (including those involving ultrasound), waiting periods, parental notification requirements, restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion, and even record keeping requirements. The PRLDEF’s own “statement of interest” in three of these cases said that the PRLDEF  “opposes any efforts to overturn or in any way restrict the rights recognized in Roe v. Wade.” 

 During her recent confirmation hearings, Ms. Sotomayor suggested that she was only aware of this litigation activity in the most general terms, and had no responsibility for or awareness of the substance of the briefs.  Frankly, this testimony was not very believable.  Ms. Sotomayor was a Yale Law School graduate who, according to many accounts, is exceedingly – even excessively – detail oriented on the legal matters in which she is involved.  More believable is what the New York Times reported on May 29, 2009, after interviewing various parties who were directly involved in the PRLDEF litigation activity during this period:  “Ms. Sotomayor stood out, frequently meeting with the legal staff to review the status of cases, several former members said. . . . .The board monitored all litigation undertaken by the fund’s lawyers, and a number of those lawyers said Ms. Sotomayor was an involved and ardent supporter of their various legal efforts during her time with the group.”

 If confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ms. Sotomayor will no longer be constrained by the precedents of that Court, including the precedents in which the Court upheld laws requiring notification of a parent before performing an abortion on a minor, requiring a pre-abortion waiting period, barring public funding of abortion, and – by a single vote, in 2007 – banning partial-birth abortion.  Nor, it appears, will she feel greatly constrained by the text and history of the Constitution, in which Roe v. Wade and its progeny find no support. 

 Because the available evidence strongly suggests that once on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor will seek to nullify abortion-related laws adopted through the normal legislative processes of our democracy, consistent with the extreme legal theories with which she was associated before being appointed to the federal bench, National Right to Life urges all senators to vote against her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Respectfully,

David N. O’Steen, Ph. D.
Executive Director 

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director

cc:  Members of the United States Senate