Beyond Abortion: The New Debate Over the Health Care Bill Debate
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Stopping the 'ram'
As conservative political advocacy groups reacted to congressional Democrats' plans to pass health care legislation, they often sounded the same complaints offered up by Republican leaders. Their common refrain was that the Democrats were attempting "to ram" their bill through Congress by employing "reconciliation," a rarely used Senate procedure that allows a filibuster-proof majority vote.
But conservatives were opposed to more than just parliamentary maneuvering. Issue number one is still abortion funding.
Tom McClusky of Family Research Council said that the President could have made a stronger effort toward bipartisanship by ensuring that government would not fund abortion. Rod Parsley called Obama's lack of explicit language barring the funding of abortion an "act of cowardice." Jay Sekulow of the Americans Center for Law and Justice said President Obama's proposal is "a flawed, pro-abortion health care plan—something that most Americans don't want and don't deserve."
The Susan B. Anthony List released a poll of voters in eight congressional districts represented by anti-abortion Democrats. "In each district, voters were more apt to reject, rather than embrace, a candidate who 'votes for healthcare legislation that includes federal government funding of abortion,'" the group said. "In fact, majorities of voters in seven of the eight districts said they would be less likely to support a candidate knowing he or she cast a vote for this type of legislation."
Doug Carlson of the the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said abortion funding is just one of many problems with the new legislation. Carlson called the bill "a deadly prescription" that would "create a new set of problems in health care—more governmental control, more taxes, higher premiums, and funding of abortion, to name a few."
David Limbaugh of the American Family Association focused on the ideological differences between Republican and Democratic reforms. "The real philosophical difference between the parties is not about whether to help the truly needy, but whether government is the solution or the culprit," said Limbaugh.
Chuck Colson said that our health care system is "far from perfect" and that "we need reform." But he favored reforms such as tort reform, interstate competition, elimination of pre-existing condition restrictions, allowing the working poor to join Medicaid, and eliminating Medicare waste rather than the President's proposals.
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, disagrees with Colson on whether the bill should be passed, but agreed that it's far from perfect. He called the President's legislative proposal "the lesser of evils" compared to the status quo.
"While it is deeply flawed, it nevertheless does extend coverage to 30 million people currently without insurance and provides subsidies for them to purchase it," said Wallis. "The consequences of inaction to America's families would be far greater. So rather than issuing a moral clarion call to action, let's just hope this finally passes, and then immediately get to work to make it better."
Heidi Unruh of Evangelicals for Social Action, meanwhile, argued that medical care is an inalienable right and that the government is responsible for access to it.
"Given the 40 million people in our nation who lack healthcare, and millions more whose healthcare is inadequate and overpriced, government needs to get involved in healthcare because it is just to do so. I'm not so worried about big government as I am about people with big health problems and small bank accounts," Unruh said.