Abortion and the Current Political Landscape

One of the most contested issues in the current health care reform debate is whether President Obama’s proposed bill will in some way open the door for federal dollars to fund abortions. Proponents of the bill have argued that it preserves the status quo in federal law, i.e., it prevents federal funding for abortions.

That assertion, however, has been vigorously challenged by other voices. Most notable among them is Rep. Bark Stupak (D-MI), the leader of a pro-life coalition of reportedly about a dozen House Democrats. Despite being on the record as favoring health care reform, Stupak currently remains a firm “no” vote regarding the latest bill. He has doggedly maintained it falls short of addressing the abortion issue satisfactorily and has insisted on alternative legislative language. As a result, he’s faced what he describes as “enormous” political pressure.*

Perhaps most alarming is the argument that Stupak says members of his own party have made to him:

“If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing,” Stupak says. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

Unfortunately, the heath care reform debate isn’t the only place where economic considerations are apparently considered a higher priority than abortion. Justin Taylor rounded up the following thoughts in relation to abortion and some members of both the mainstream Republican party and the Tea Party movment:

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, writes in The Washington Post:

Republicans too often treat the abortion issue like an eccentric aunt at Thanksgiving dinner — if they ignore it, maybe it will go away. And lately, Republican heads have been turned by a new, flashy guest at the table — the tea party movement, which has been attracting big crowds, high-profile speakers and money with its message of lower taxes and less government spending.

The New York Times ran a piece on Friday on how “[some of] the Tea Party leaders… deliberately avoid discussion of issues like . . . abortion. . . . [They] argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations.”

Taylor also included a helpfully blunt and cogent response from John Piper:

Let me see if I understand this term “ill afford.”

Is this it? Enormous debt will hurt our children and grandchildren. Therefore don’t talk about the lawfulness of whether they can be killed.

Something like that?

All this is to point out the great need for God’s people to be praying regularly for the end of legalized abortion in this country. I have little doubt that political and legal changes will be necessary to curb and ultimately end this practice. But for that happen, the hearts of men and women will need to be changed first. Lord, please have mercy and make it so.

*The debate involving the abortion language in the current health care reform bill is complex, and I’m not sure I have a full understanding of all the nuances. With that disclaimer, I do want to raise an important question. I’ve heard several proponents say the Obama proposal, which reportedly follows the Senate version of the bill’s language on this issue, maintains the status quo on abortion. For example:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated: “I think the president has made it clear from the outset that the health reform bill should not change the status quo on abortion policy in America. That’s not what this about. There will be no federal funding for abortions.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quoted in the same article as Sebelius: “There is no change in the access to abortion, no more no less. It is abortion neutral.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) asserted: “Look, we have the Hyde Amendment that is been in place for a generation. I’m not crazy about it but it says there should be no federal funding for abortion. That’s the law as we sit here, that will be the law after health care passes.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Stupak has noted that his amendment is meant to explicitly apply the existing Hyde Amendment language to the current health care reform bill:

“Current law, which is my amendment–it’s the Hyde language–says no public funding for abortion, no public funding for health insurance policies that provide for abortion coverage.”

So here’s the question: if the health care reform bill’s proponents are correct in saying the bill already does what the Stupak amendment is designed to do (i.e., preserve the status quo) then why not include it? In their perspective, wouldn’t it simply be adding to the bill what amounts to redundant language? Why risk failing to pass a bill they’ve argued is so critical if the only issue at stake is making something explicit that’s already implicitly included?

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