Dangerous Negotiations over Abortion

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America’s Catholic bishops are being used in a negotiating ploy that could lead to enactment of Obamacare and to federal funding of abortion.

Representatives of the bishops reportedly are working with the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to write legislative language that would “fix” the liberal abortion provisions in the Senate health-care reform bill. They are being told that congressional leaders will pledge to enact their abortion protections as separate legislation amending the Senate bill after it’s passed. That is a smokescreen designed to keep the bishops at the negotiating table while the real action to enact Obamacare takes place in the House.


President Obama and his congressional allies are meeting with House Democrats to convince them that they must pass the Senate’s version of the bill “to keep the process moving.” But it’s more than just one step in a process; if the House passes the Senate bill with a simple majority of 216 votes, Obamacare will become the law of the land.

Once that happens, the Senate may, or may not, pass a second bill to “fix” the original bill’s abortion language. It’s far from certain that this will happen; in fact, it would be extremely difficult to do so. Abortion provisions historically have been barred from the 51-vote Senate reconciliation process as being not germane to the budget, and there are not 60 pro-life votes in the Senate to pass such a bill through regular order.

It would be the scam of all time if House members were talked into going first and voting for the Senate bill “to keep the process moving” toward passage of a reconciliation package, only to find that they have put Obamacare over the finish line with no guarantee of any changes. If the House passes legislation identical to the Senate bill, the president will surely sign it, and it will become law. That means House Democrats will have voted for a bill that clearly allows federal funding for abortion, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops solidly opposes. Any promises that this would be fixed later on won’t be worth the paper they might, or might not, be written on.

The National Right to Life Committee issued a strong statement on Friday saying:

“When all of the pro-abortion provisions are considered in total, the Senate bill is the most pro-abortion single piece of legislation that has ever come to the House floor for a vote, since Roe v. Wade. Any House member who votes for the Senate health bill is casting a career-defining pro-abortion vote. A House member who votes for the Senate bill would forfeit a plausible claim to pro-life credentials. No House member who votes for the Senate bill will be regarded, in the future, as having a record against federal funding of abortion . . .”

House members who vote for the Senate bill will be accountable to their constituents for what the Senate bill contains, including its pro-abortion mandates and subsidies, without regard to . . . solemn assurances that Congress will revisit the issue in future legislation.

The bishops must insist that the House never votes on the Senate bill, but instead starts with new health-reform legislation that protects against federal funding of abortion. They will have leverage only if protections against abortion are explicitly included as part of a larger health-reform bill.

The House could vote anytime on the Senate bill, and the bishops must not be part of this deceptive and dangerous strategy.

‘Grace-Marie Turner is with the Galen Institute in Alexandria, VA. See more at https://www.galen.org’