Abortion has become an issue in the healthcare reform debate. Prolife groups are understandably concerned that healthcare reform will mean changes to the status quo regarding abortion funding. In particular, they are concerned that there will be changes to the longstanding public policies of (1) no public funding for abortions, and (2) no requirement that private insurers pay for abortions.
Some Democrats and liberals seem to think that the healthcare reform effort has nothing to lose from this issue: anyone that is conservative enough to be prolife won’t be supporting healthcare reform anyway. This is a dangerous misconception. Using healthcare reform to change the status quo regarding abortion funding is a clear case of ideological overreach. Opposition to public funding of abortions is much, much greater than support for bans on performing abortions, and it includes many Democrats and groups who otherwise support healthcare reform. For example, the US Bishops’ Conference strongly supports health care reform, provided it preserves the status quo regarding abortion funding.
Support for the status quo regarding abortion funding is also strong with Congressional Democrats. A group of five House Democrats recently sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi urging that healthcare reform legislation preserve the status quo on abortion funding. As the Politico story notes, nineteen House Democrats signed an earlier letter to the same effect. Thus, there are at least nineteen Democrats in the House prepared to vote against healthcrae reform legislation that threatens to change the status quo regarding abortion funding. In the Senate, Sen. Max Baucus, a key player in the healthcare reform negotiations, has said that the Senate version would be “neutral – status quo” regarding abortion funding.
Some Catholic Democrats and liberals believe that the Obama Administration knows that the abortion funding issue could threaten the ultimate passage of healthcare reform and will work behind the scenes to ensure that the final legislation preserves the status quo regarding abortion funding. Let us hope so. However, there is reason to be concerned, and Catholics should not rely entirely on the good sense so far demonstrated by the Obama Adminsration; rather, they should let the Obama Administation and the Democratic Congressional leadership know right now that failure to address this issue will cause the healthcare reform legislation to lose Catholic support and could result in its defeat.