Exploiting Health Care Debate to Restrict Abortion?

RD contributor Frances Kissling weighed in recently on federal-funding of abortions and the high-profile attempts by self-proclaimed “religious progressives” like Jim Wallis “to use healthcare reform to push for further restrictions on abortion.”

Curiously, despite the pro-choice community’s attempts to reach common ground and compromise by keeping the status quo on the federal funding of abortions, some vocal “pro-life progressive” leaders now demand more.

Here’s how it begins. Go to Salon to see where it ends:

Sept. 14, 2009 | It was discouraging to hear Barack Obama, the man I supported for president, announce so resolutely during his speech to Congress last week that “under our [health care] plan no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.” It was infuriating, however, that before the morning cock could crow following the speech Jim Wallis of the antiabortion organization Sojourners was claiming that the president’s remarks on abortion were just what “a broad coalition of the faith community had asked for — no federal funding for abortions.”

I had been prepared for Obama to close the door on a health care reform package that would include funding abortions for women who rely on Medicaid for health coverage. Low-income women already lost that right 30 years ago when the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment. I believe a principled compromise to maintain the status quo on abortion is justified if it gets us better health care for millions of men and women and security from the rapaciousness of the insurance industry. And no pro-choice organization wants to bear the responsibility for health care reform failing. And so, tacitly, pro-choice leaders have basically accepted that the Hyde Amendment restrictions, as well as those that deny federal workers, women in the military and women who get health care on Indian reservations funding for abortion, would be reflected in the health care package.

Unfortunately, the good will shown by the pro-choice community has not been met with a good-faith effort by Wallis and his friends. They now hope to use the president’s promise as a way to press for further restrictions on abortion coverage in the final health care legislation. As one moderate pro-life leader told me, “It is going to be a long fall.” All the talk about finding common ground on abortion and the emergence of moderate pro-lifers is floundering as Wallis and a few others prepare to push Congress and the White House for further concessions. “[The president’s] commitment to these principles,” said Wallis, “means we can now work together to make sure that they are consistently and diligently applied to any final health care legislation.” For Wallis, that means that “no person should be forced to pay for someone else’s abortion and that public funds cannot be used to pay for elective abortions.”

More here.

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