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NRL News
Page 1
January 2010
Volume 37
Issue 1

White House and Top Capitol Hill Democrats Prepare for Final Push on Sweeping Pro-Abortion Health Care Legislation

WASHINGTON (January 13, 2010)—The Obama White House and top Democratic congressional leaders are meeting behind closed doors to hammer out a final health care bill, which they hope to ram through both houses of Congress within a matter of weeks.

However, there are major unresolved differences between the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives in early November (H.R. 3962) and the bill passed by the Senate in late December (H.R. 3590), including profound differences on abortion-related policies.

The White House and top congressional Democrats have made it clear that they would like to pass a final bill that includes abortion-related provisions along the general lines of those contained in the Senate-passed bill—provisions that have been denounced by NRLC and other pro-life groups.

NRLC believes that enactment of the abortion provisions in the Senate-passed health bill would result in great expansions of abortion, driven by federal administrative decrees and federal subsidies,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “In contrast, the abortion-related provisions of the House bill, as it was amended by the NRLC-backed Stupak-Pitts Amendment, would preserve long-established federal policies—preventing federal subsidies for abortion, preventing pro-abortion federal mandates, and protecting the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers.”

Once President Obama and top congressional Democratic leaders agree among themselves on the contents of a final bill, it will be presented as a single, unamendable package—first to the House of Representatives, where majority approval will be required to send it to the Senate. Because House Republicans are united against the legislation, the bill would fail if as few as 39 Democrats vote against it. (The Democrats currently control the House by a margin of 256-178.)

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mi.), who has led a group of pro-life House Democrats in a fight to prevent health care legislation from funding or expanding abortion, has declared the abortion-related provisions in the Senate bill to be “unacceptable.”

Regarding the final bill now being written, “It has to be pretty close to Stupak language or it’s not going to fly,” Stupak said at a recent town hall meeting in his district, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

The health care legislation initially brought to the House floor on November 7 (H.R. 3962), written by Democratic House leaders, contained far-reaching pro-abortion provisions. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) was forced to allow a vote on an NRLC-backed amendment offered by Reps. Stupak and Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) to remove the pro-abortion provisions from the bill. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed 240–194, with 64 Democrats voting in favor of it—one-fourth of all the House Democrats. (See “U.S. House Adopts NRLC-backed Stupak-Pitts Amendment, 240–194,” November–December 2009 NRL News, pages 19–21.)

After that, the bill itself passed by a wafer-thin margin of 220–215, with many pro-life Democrats voting for it. If a significant number of pro-life Democrats refuse to support a final bill that does not contain the Stupak-Pitts language, Pelosi may find herself without the votes necessary to pass the bill.

Following House passage of its bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) wrote a new health care bill, behind closed doors, which incorporated pro-abortion components taken from the original House leadership bill, rather than the Stupak-Pitts language. On the Senate floor, Senators Ben Nelson (D-Ne.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offered an amendment similar to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, but the pro-life amendment was tabled (killed) on a vote of 54-45 on December 8. (See

U.S. Senate Rejects NRLC-Backed Nelson-Hatch Amendment, 54 to 45,” November-December 2009 NRL News, page 1.)

Subsequently, Nelson sharply disappointed pro-life groups by entering into a deal with Reid that made only insignificant changes in Reid’s pro-abortion legislation, and by providing the 60th vote that allowed Reid to achieve Senate approval of his bill (H.R. 3590) on December 24. All Senate Republicans opposed the bill.

On January 9, as Democratic leaders began to negotiate a melding of the House and Senate bills, NRLC sent a letter to certain members of the House of Representatives listing six major abortion-related problems with the Senate-passed legislation.

The letter, signed by NRLC Executive Director David N. O’Steen and Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, explained: “Regrettably, the House-passed bill and the Senate-passed bill (H.R. 3590) are far more divergent on abortion policy matters than one would understand on the basis of accounts in the news media. In reality, the Senate-passed bill contains provisions that would ultimately result in substantial expansions of abortion, driven by federal administrative decrees and federal subsidies. ... A vote to advance such legislation would be described in those terms in the NRLC congressional scorecard for the 111th Congress. In contrast, inclusion of the substance of the House-passed abortion language ... would preserve long-established federal policies on abortion, and would fully address our concerns regarding the abortion policy issues.”

The letter explained that under the provisions of the Senate bill, a federal agency (the Office of Personnel Management) would administer a program of “multi-state” insurance plans, some of which would cover abortion; a new federal program would subsidize the purchase of private insurance plans that cover elective abortion; changes to Community Health Centers and Indian health laws would open the door to future funding of abortion; and various federal officials would be empowered to issue regulatory mandates requiring private insurers to provide abortion coverage. In addition, a “conscience protection” provision included in the House-passed bill (sometimes called the Weldon provision) was omitted from the Senate-passed bill.

(The full text of the NRLC letter, and other supporting documentation, is posted on the NRLC website at

When a reporter mentioned to Speaker Pelosi that the Senate had rejected the House’s abortion language, Pelosi responded, “Thank God.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune, December 16, 2009). Asked if she thought she could pass a bill containing the Senate’s abortion language, Pelosi replied, “We’ll see now, won’t we?”

President Obama has made it clear that he opposes the Stupak language, and his spokespersons have expressed general approval of the Senate language.

In 2007, while running for president, Obama said, “in my mind, reproductive care is essential care. It is basic care, and so it is at the center and at the heart of the [health care] plan that I propose.”

NRLC’s alarm at the Senate bill’s abortion provisions is widely shared among pro-life organizations. At NRL News deadline, Roman Catholics in around 19,000 parishes around the nation were receiving copies of a nationwide alert distributed by the U.S . Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed, “Urgent ... Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!” The alert contains a sample message for U.S. House members that reads, “I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to assure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. Until and unless these criteria are met, I urge you to oppose the final bill.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins noted that a mid-December Quinnipiac poll that found 72 percent of respondents opposed “allowing abortions to be paid for by public funds under a health care reform bill.” Perkins said, “House and Senate conferees would do well to heed that warning when they come together to iron out their differences with the final bill, else this bill could collapse because of it.”

(An NRLC factsheet summarizing the results of seven recent polls on similar questions is posted on the NRLC website at )

On January 5, the head of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization with 1.7 million members, sent an alert to all local leaders throughout the organization, urging members to contact their federal representatives in opposition to health care legislation that lacks the House-approved pro-life language. “Time is of the essence,” wrote Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson. “We must prevent this health care legislation from becoming the largest expansion of abortion in our country since Roe v. Wade.”

Take Action Now!

Time is short! Please telephone the offices of your U.S. House member. The offices of any member of Congress can be reached through 202-225-3121. (If you don’t know your representative’s name, just give the Capitol Hill operator your zip code, and you will be connected to the correct office.) When you reach your representative’s staff, say that you wish to be recorded as “opposed to the health care legislation, because the abortion language adopted by the Senate is unacceptable.” You can also offer other comments on the legislation (for information on the aspects of the legislation that pertain to rationing of lifesaving medical treatments, see page 1 of this issue).

Call the offices of your two U.S. senators with the same message, through the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center (, where you will find easy-to-use tools that allow you to send e-mails with appropriate messages to your federal representatives in just a few minutes. But please do this in addition to—not instead of—your phone calls.

You can also call the in-state offices of your representative and senators, or send them letters by fax. For most members of Congress, the district offices numbers and fax numbers are available through the NRLC Legislative Action Center at

Send short letters to the “letters to the editor” features of your local newspapers, in order to alert your fellow pro-life citizens to the pro-abortion policies that the Obama White House and the pro-abortion lobby are trying to smuggle into law through “health care reform.” You can find contact information for your local news media in our “Media Guide” at

If you are able, donate to support the efforts of National Right to Life in opposition to pro-abortion health care legislation. The easiest way is to visit the NRLC homepage at and use the “Click Here to Donate” button at the top left of the page.