Will Abortion Derail Health Care Reform?
Sojourners: "Don't Walk Away!"
When the House voted to ban abortion funding in the health care bill, most Christian advocacy groups reacted swiftly with cheers. Sojourners did not join them. This week, Sojourners' founder Jim Wallis finally broke the silence in a letter nearly as long as the legislation itself.
His message: Don't let abortion disagreements "derail and sabotage" health care reform.
For Wallis, the infusion of abortion politics into the health care debate is a problem that could have—and should have—been avoided. He preferred an "abortion neutral" bill that would leave the interpretation of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion, for the courts to sort out.
Wallis called on both pro-life and pro-choice groups to continue work on a compromise.
"Either make an agreement or live with the outcome of the vote. But don't walk away!" he said. "Health-care reform is fundamentally an issue of social and economic justice—one of the most critical moral issues of our time, and itself an issue of 'life.'"
Many other advocacy groups remain opposed to any compromise.
"The House-passed pro-life amendment is crucial in the pro-life effort to prevent federal funding of abortion in health care," said Doug Carlson of the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. "As the focus shifts to the Senate, pro-lifers must insist on an explicit ban on abortion coverage."
"[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid seeks to cover elective abortions in two big new federal health programs, but tries to conceal that unpopular reality with layers of contrived definitions and hollow bookkeeping requirements," said the NRLC.
Focus on the Family Action sent an action alert asking members to contact their Senators and ask them to vote against any health care bill that does not include the abortion provisions of the Stupak amendment.
Chuck Colson of BreakPoint said the current legislation is a threat to religious liberty because it "has no protections for religious medical personnel or health care providers who, by reason of conscience, refuse to participate in abortions."
Obama's First Big Judicial Test
Until now, President Obama has avoided fights over his judicial nominees. The ones that have made it to the Senate floor have been confirmed by large bipartisan coalitions.
This week was different.
The Senate considered David Hamilton, Obama's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Some Republicans threatened to filibuster the nominee, but the Senate voted to end any such effort with a vote of 70-29 on Tuesday. Hamilton was confirmed on Thursday by a vote of 59-39.
Concerned Women for America spearheaded a coalition against Hamilton that includes the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council/FRC Action, and Liberty Counsel. This coalition sent a letter to Senators urging a "no" vote on Hamilton for the following three reasons:
- Hamilton "In 2005 ordered the Speaker of the Indiana House to immediately stop the practice of 'sectarian prayers' at the opening of the legislative session because apparently the prayers were too Christian … [He] later concluded that praying in the name of 'Allah' would be perfectly fine."
- He overturned Indiana's "informed consent" law that required women to be informed of the risks of abortion.
- Prior to his judgeship, Hamilton served on the board of Indiana's American Civil Liberties Union and "as a fundraiser for the liberal activist group ACORN."