Thursday, November 5, 2009

Healthcare debate: Amendment by area Congressman draws fire from Right to Life supporters

life insurance

Eighth District U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), who owns a 100 percent Pro-Life voting record, has pledged to withhold his support for the pending healthcare legislation now being considered by Congress unless his concerns about taxpayer funding for abortions are addressed.

Ellsworth and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-Conn.) have drafted a floor amendment that he contends will prevent federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortions.

However, members of National and State Right to Life organizations have taken exception to the Ellsworth-DeLauro amendment calling it "phony."

National Right to Life Committee Legislative Director Douglas Johnson sent out a news release Tuesday that states, "The language being circulated, and loosely associated with Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), does not mitigate either of the abortion-subsidy provisions contained in H.R. 3962. This language is intended only to wrap the pro-abortion provisions in additional layers of concealment. The latest version being circulated contains a money-laundering scheme that is truly laughable. The amendment authorizes the federal insurance plan, the public option, to pay for all elective abortions."

Right to Life backers appear to support a more strongly worded amendment being offered by Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat from Michigan, that would curb all abortion funding in the healthcare bill.

A spokesperson for Ellsworth's office in Washington, DC says the criticism to the amendment is pre-mature and came after a draft of an amendment was made public.

"We have been telling them (Pro-Life supporters) that this (amendment) is a work in progress. We just hope they will wait and see what the final product is before they pass judgment on it," Elizabeth Farrar, a press secretary for Ellsworth told the Greene County Daily World in a telephone interview Thursday.

She pointed out that Rep. Ellsworth and Rep. Stupak talk on a regular basis and said, "They are both on the same page in terms of working toward the same goals that is to make sure federal funds are not provided for abortions."

She said that Ellsworth's amendment is an alternative to Stupak's amendment, which Farrar said may not have enough support on the House floor.

"If they could get the (Stupak) amendment to the floor, the Congressman (Ellsworth) would support it. But what we are starting to see is there may not be enough support to actually get it to a vote. What we are trying to do is find another way to get to that goal," Fararr said. "It's kind of dual track, if Congressman Stupak can't get any traction on his end then we have a Plan B to go to with the Ellsworth language which we are still drafting."

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mark Fitcher disagrees and sent a letter Tuesday to Ellsworth urging him to withdraw his amendment and support an already presented amendment.

"The Stupak amendment is on the table. There is no reason to offer alternatives to the Stupak amendment when it already addresses our concerns," he wrote.

In a statement to the Greene County Daily World on Thursday morning, Ellsworth noted, "I'm glad to see pro-life Hoosiers standing up and making their voices heard in this debate, and I join them in demanding action to address pro-life concerns in healthcare reform legislation. As I have said repeatedly, I will not support a bill that I believe would result in federal tax dollars being used to pay for abortions, and, with the help of pro-life constituents, I am leading the effort to protect federal tax dollars and provide pro-life insurance options to Americans."

He added, "As healthcare reform makes its way to the floor, I have been working round-the-clock with like-minded members to draft legislation that will remedy these concerns. The Congressional Research Service -- the nonpartisan research arm of Congress -- has analyzed my initial drafts and concluded that my amendment will ensure no federal funds will be used to provide elective abortions. While my efforts are far from a done deal, we have been making steady progress in gathering the support from pro-life members that will be necessary to ensure these concerns are taken seriously and addressed."

According to a news release from Ellsworth's office, his amendment proposal would make five key pro-life changes to the bill; effectively preventing federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortions and ensuring Americans have access to pro-life insurance options in the proposed Health Insurance Exchange:

* Explicitly prevents all federal tax dollars from being used to provide abortions in the public option.

* Prohibits any funds from the U.S. Treasury from paying for abortion services in any of the plans purchased through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange -- private or public.

* Establishes clear, strict rules for separating public funds from the premiums of private individuals (ensuring that no public funds are ever used to pay for an abortion in any health plan offered on the Health Insurance Exchange).

* Guarantees participants in the Health Insurance Exchange will always have access to a pro-life insurance option.

* Expands protections to prevent the government from discriminating against pro-life health insurance plans.

The House vote on the healthcare proposal is expected on Saturday.