And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
Those were the words of President Barack Obama, uttered during a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 9, right after the House chamber quieted following Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst regarding the president’s lies on health care reform and illegal immigrants.
No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, he said. I repeat: No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.
Turn, if you will, to page 110 of H.R. 3962, the health care reform bill dropped yesterday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Take a look specifically at section 222(e)(3), which states unequivocally that “[t]he public health insurance option shall provide coverage for services described in paragraph (4)(B),” and that “[n]othing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage of services described in paragraph (4)(A).”
Here are the sections in question, sections 222(e)(4)(A) and 222(e)(4)(B):
(A) ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS PROHIBITED- The services described in this subparagraph are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is not permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.
(B) ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS ALLOWED- The services described in this subparagraph are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.
Now, seeing that I’m just a normal, everyday American, I’m just as confused as you are by the ambiguous-at-best legislative language. The way I look at it–and I’m just a layman at best, mind you–this means one of three things:
The first possibility, I think, is that the text here in these two sections is serving as a kind of “placeholder,” ready-made for replacement with more controversial language through an amendment or other legislative measure later on, after the sting of the new bill has been taken out and the gnat-like attention span of most Americans has kicked in. It seems as though the sections make reference to specific services which are in reality never specified, and that just lends me to believe that the Democrats aren’t quite done with section 222(e).
The second possibility, which seems a little more likely, is that these two paragraphs are incorporating by vague reference the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services. Hyde, after all, is the law currently on the books, though it’s no secret that the Democrats have been looking to let it sunset rather than provide for its renewal. If you look at the language here in section 222(e), it specifically notes that the determinative factor for whether or not a specific abortion service is publicly funded is the “law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.” In essence, the way I see it, sections 222(e)(4)(A) and (B) set up a type of revolving standard requiring the use of federal funds to bankroll abortions through the public option now and, should the Hyde Amendment sunset, that standard would require the federal funding of elective abortions as well.
The third possibility, which seems extremely likely, is that the Democrats have placed the controversial provision into the legislation in order to trap Republicans and conservative members of their own party. Federally-funded abortions are most definitely a hot-button issue, and certainly could be expected to drum up some controversy, especially considering how brazenly the president promised that no such provision would be included. By including it, though, Democrats will be in a position to pull it later, feigning that they had succumbed to Republican pressure — doing so could lull the Republicans and conservative Democrats into a false sense of security, and give them the impression that their re-election chances might be a whole lot better for having fought the abortion provision and won. In other words, by conceding at a crucial time a provision that already runs afoul of current law, the Democrats could make passing the rest of the nightmare a whole lot easier.
Regardless, it’s fairly obvious the intention behind this. section 222(e)(3) states unequivocally that nothing in the Act should prohibit the public option from covering abortions and, for crying out loud, section 222(e)(4)(B) is titled “Abortions For Which Public Funding Is Allowed.” And why should we be surprised? Considering that we have a president who actively protested the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would have provided medical assistance to infants that survived botched abortion attempts, it’s equally obvious that unborn life doesn’t matter much to the majority up there on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps Joe Wilson should have shouted “you lie!” again. He certainly would have been right.