Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s (R-TX) “baby-killer” outburst on the House floor Sunday night is just one reflection of how the anti-abortion movement is using this moment to make health care reform all about abortion, in a way that is bound to (and no doubt intended to) radicalize activists in the coming months.
After the House approved the bill Sunday night, anti-abortion groups began comparing health care reform to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor (Troy Newman of Operation Rescue); called it “the biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade” (Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life); and pledge to renew efforts to pass laws in the states defining the fetus as a person (Judie Brown of the American Life League).
Coalitions of anti-choice groups, led by Priests for Life, are coordinating efforts to have an impact on the mid-term elections. The Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society — in contrast to other religious right legal groups which are challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the reform bill, even though conservatives admit it’s a long shot — are planning legal challenges claiming that the conscience rights of health care workers who are opposed to abortion are inadequately protected in the law. Recall, though, that last week, the Catholic Health Association, which represents actual health care workers, split with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and endorsed the bill. After it passed, the CHA issued a statement concluding, “We are confident that the reform law does not allow federal funding of abortion and that it keeps in place important conscience protections for caregivers and institutions alike.”
The rhetoric coming out of the anti-abortion movement, despite the stamp of approval on the law by pro-life health care providers, is clearly intended to rile the most ardent abortion foes, and to link reform with the consummate evil of abortion. Just as during the health care reform debate, the anti-abortion and tea party movement will find common cause in opposition to reform, but now they can say that their apocalyptic warnings have become a reality — and a potent rallying cry for the most dedicated and energetic activists.