The Worst Week For Conservatives
Senate Rejects Pro-Life Amendment
Christian advocacy groups lost a major abortion policy battle Tuesday. The Senate voted to table the amendment to the health care bill that would have barred any direct or indirect funding of abortion. The amendment was sponsored by Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine, voted with all of the Democrats against the Nelson-Hatch amendment. The amendment was supported by the other Senate Republicans as well as Nelson, Evan Bayh (Ind.), Robert Casey (Pa.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), and Mark Pryor (Ark.).
The amendment was widely supported by Christian advocacy groups.
Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and Galen Carey, NAE Director of Government Affairs, wrote an open letter to all U.S. Senators warning, "if the Nelson-Hatch amendment is not included in the bill, the [NAE] will vigorously oppose passage of the final bill."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the plan to allow federal funding of abortion in both the public plan and through subsidies "unconscionable." Like other groups, the ERLC saw the Nelson-Hatch amendment as merely keeping the status quo on abortion funding.
"The vote reflects a callous disregard for the protection of innocent human life," said the American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ). "Rejecting this Amendment is disappointing, but not surprising."
Some groups took aim directly at Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has previously opposed any federal funding of abortion and was considered to be a pro-life Democrat.
The Family Research Council (FRC) accused Reid of changing his position on abortion out of political expediency. "Since becoming majority leader, Sen. Reid hasn't cast a single pro-life vote," said the FRC. "His loyalty is to political power—not to the unborn, and certainly not to Nevada voters."
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser similarly questioned Reid's identity. "Is Reid a pro-life Senator, true to his Nevada roots, who will work to protect innocent human life at every turn? Or is he a hardened Washington politico, an inside the Beltway horse-trader willing to make personal compromises for short-term political gain?" asked Dannenfelser.
Even if the Nelson-Hatch amendment had passed, the health-care proposal would have been unacceptable for many groups that do not trust the government to run health care programs. The Liberty Counsel, for example, said that the Congress should not approve policies that "disregard life and restrict our freedom with bureaucracy and endless paperwork."
Pat Robertson summed up the concern succinctly on Monday's 700 Club: "It's a socialistic grab at a major part of your life."
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, warned that the government may even attempt to force women to have abortions in an effort to cut costs.
"Since abortion costs less than delivery of a baby, it is not unlikely that bureaucrats, facing pressure to reduce costs, will sign off on paying for abortion but not for the health care that pregnant women and their babies need. This could lead to women being coerced into abortion by their own government," said Wright.
The FRC examined the latest Senate bill and was concerned that insurance programs would be overseen by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Why is this a problem? According to the FRC, the problem is the OPM's director, John Berry, whom the FRC described as "the highest ranking homosexual in President Obama's administration."