The executive order the White House has prepared for President Obama to sign to restate a prohibition of federal funding of abortion has won the support of an anti-abortion Democrat in Congress — but few other partisans on either side of the abortion debate.
The White House released the text of the order Obama promised to sign so as to win the vote of anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the comprehensive healthcare legislation up for a final vote in the House Sunday. The question of whether the bill would liberalize abortion availability has been a flashpoint as the legislation has proceeded.
The executive order says the legislation would maintain “current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges.”
Those exchanges would allow Americans new options to purchase health coverage. Approved in 1976, the Hyde Amendment originally banned abortion funding for low-income women who receive Medicaid coverage. The measure in later years has been expanded to prohibit federal funding for abortion in other government programs, as well.
Other than Stupak, Obama’s order appears to have won over scant other support. Indeed, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) — Stupak’s legislative partner in an earlier anti-abortion amendment to the reform bill — rejected the order as a solution. “An executive order … doesn’t trump a statute,” Pitts says, charging that the reform bill will allow abortion funding.
Charmaine Yoest, president & CEO of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life Action, says, “This deal to pass the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade is a tragedy for America. We believe that Mr. Stupak’s choice to succumb to the intense pressure of the last week has resulted in his endorsement of a charade that does not even begin to address the anti-life provisions in this legislation.
“The American people do not support taxpayer funding of abortion and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and the president have undermined representative democracy by working to pass this legislation with this unprecedented contortion of the legislative process,” Yoest adds.
Neither does the order placate Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a prominent Washington social-conservative organization.
“By offering an executive order as a so-called solution, President Obama is finally admitting there is a problem with a bill that would force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions for the first time in over three decades,” Perkins says. “However, there is no way that an executive order will protect the unborn or prevent the greatest expansion of elective abortion since Roe v. Wade.
“Pro-life lawmakers would be making a serious mistake to trust those who have repeatedly attempted to mislead the American people into believing that abortion is not in the bill,” Perkins adds.
Despite such claims that the legislation will open the doors to new federal support for abortion, pro-abortion advocates also are displeased with the executive order.
“On a day when Americans are expected to see passage of legislation that will make health care more affordable for more than 30 million citizens, it is deeply disappointing that Bart Stupak and other anti-choice politicians would demand the restatement of the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory law that blocks low-income women from receiving full reproductive-health care,” says Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Today’s action is a stark reminder of why we must repeal this unfair and insulting policy. Achieving this goal means increasing the number of lawmakers in Congress who share our pro-choice values. Otherwise, we will continue to see women’s reproductive rights used as a bargaining chip.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.