While liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are working to pass President Obama's plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, few are talking about this essential issue: Will health care reform force taxpayers to pay for abortions for the first time in 30 years?
The short answer is yes, because there is no explicit provision in the bill to:
• Prevent taxpayer funding of abortions as part of the health care benefit Congress is considering. It is ironic that taxpayer-funded abortions would be considered a "health care benefit" since the baby gets no health care benefit from abortion.
• Prevent delays in health care services that result in the death of the patient waiting for the care, usually the old, infirm and the very sick. In the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week, an amendment to prevent the denial, delay or rationing of health care was defeated. Every Democratic senator on the committee voted not to prevent rationing.
• Allow health care providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to refuse to participate in any health care-related action that violates their conscience, be it an abortion or turning off a ventilator, denying or delaying care that will likely result in the death of a patient, or refusing to dispense an abortion-producing drug.
The entire political and legislative strategy of the health care reform bills being considered by Congress is to be simultaneously vague and to also empower the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to be "the decider" about almost everything.
The House health reform plan covers "family planning," the well-worn buzz word that includes abortion unless specified to the contrary, and given the Democratic Party's commitment to abortion, it would be naive to assume, unless there is an explicit prohibition in the bill, that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will not use her discretion to fund abortions with taxpayers' money.
The fact that the word abortion does not appear in the legislative language makes this bill even more dangerous, since an unelected government bureaucrat will be defining what is or is not "family planning." Watching Mr. Obama's pro-abortion decisions thus far, it is not difficult to see a future, should this health care bill pass, where the unborn child enjoys not a shred of protection.
In short, the health care reform bills being considered in both the House and Senate attempt to be silent on the key question of whether or not to allow the U.S. government to fund abortions with taxpayers' money, while simultaneously giving the health and human services secretary the power to allow taxpayer-funded abortions.
A new Gallup poll, conducted in May, finds that 51 percent of Americans call themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42 percent "pro-choice." When it comes to taxpayer funding of abortion, the numbers of those who oppose this practice are even higher, topping 70 percent.
On the other key life-and-death decisions there is an active commitment on the part of Senate Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to allow the rationing of health care.
This is what the White House and Congress mean when they say they will cut costs. It means cutting off your access to health care services by creating the legal authority to do so, while stopping any provision becoming law that would prevent rationing.
In a world of health care rationing, the elderly, the handicapped and the frail are the most likely to lose their lives because care was delayed or denied.
Among the life-and-death questions the American public must ask:
• Do you feel more comfortable handling decisions about who will get care now or later, or at all, or do you want to hand this power over to the government?
• Do you want Congress to allow taxpayer funded abortions?
• Do you think the government should force doctors and nurses to engage in acts they are fundamentally and ethically opposed to performing?
The Family Research Council's answer is clear: There must be a permanent prohibition on taxpayer-funded abortions, a provision to allow a right of conscience for doctors and nurses and other health care providers to refuse to perform actions they oppose, and there can be no system of denial or delay or rationing of care. Euthanasia by any other name is a poison pill in the health reform debate.
• Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.