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'Elective Abortions Are Not Covered'?

Pro-life groups are using a new insurance plan in Pennsylvania as evidence that President Obama lied about not funding abortion. One group disagrees.

Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about the past week.

Keystone State Debate

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) reported that the federal government's new high-risk health insurance program "will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania." Several political activist groups responded to the report by calling President Obama a "liar" because he and pro-life Democrats promised abortion would not be funded under the law. 

"This is just the first proof of the phoniness of President Obama's assurances that federal funds would not subsidize abortion—but it will not be the last," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the NRLC. 

Other groups also reported on the new plan. Catherine Snow of Citizenlink said "the Obama Administration is now quietly subsidizing nearly all forms of abortions in Pennsylvania, according to a recently uncovered plan—referred to as the 'Rendell-Sebelius plan'—designed to circumvent public scrutiny and Obama's executive order."

"Never have we so regretted being right on an issue," said Family Research Council (FRC) senior vice-president Tom McClusky. "For our efforts to remove the [health care] bill's abortion funding, we were called 'deceivers' by President Obama and 'liars' by his allies. Now we know who the true deceivers and liars really are." McClusky called on the President to apologize and for the healthcare bill to be repealed.

But, does the Pennsylvania program actually fund abortion? Faith in Public Life has issued its fact-check of the plan. The conclusion: abortion will not be funded as part of the program.

"Rather than checking the facts, National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council and John Boehner chose to spread misinformation on the sensitive topic of abortion … Once again we see the issue of abortion used as a political weapon serving partisan ends," said Dan Nejfelt of Faith in Public Life.

Nejfelt said the plan explicitly excluded abortion. In the only section to address abortion, the plan stated: "Elective abortions are not covered."

The NRLC said this statement was "a red herring" because of the word "elective." Under Pennsylvania law cited in the plan, a woman may have an abortion if her doctor agrees that abortion is needed after taking into account "all factors (physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age) relevant to the well-being of the woman." The only criterion that may not be considered is sex selection.

"The Pennsylvania proposal conspicuously lacks language that would prevent funding of abortions performed as a method of birth control or for any other reason, except sex selection—and the Obama Administration has now approved this,"said Johnson.

Since the NRLC report, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the state of Pennsylvania reiterated their policies on abortion.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Pennsylvania Department of Insurance's Rosanne Placey said, "Very simply, federal law controls. We know that," she said. "We absolutely do not cover elective abortions."

HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus said in a statement that "abortions will not be covered in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance (PCIP) except in cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered. Our policy is the same for both state and federally-run PCIP programs."

Odds and Ends

—Many groups objected to the recent decision by a federal judge finding the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Two comments went beyond a criticism of the ruling. Mathew D. Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, said the federal government "sabotaged" DOMA by stating the law was passed to maintain the status quo, not protect children. "President Obama has been actively promoting an agenda to undermine the nation's marriage laws," said Staver. "President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder must defend the nation's marriage laws. The Obama administration must defend DOMA, not sabotage the law." Also, Chuck Colson called on Christians to "get busy, work harder, and take the long view—to restore, pray God, sanity to our culture." He also pointed out his unusual connection to Judge Joseph Tauro: "I am especially saddened personally because Joe Tauro is a long-time friend whose appointment as a federal judge I urged President Nixon to make. It's for me a very painful irony."

—Sojourners president Jim Wallis spoke last weekend at Lifest, a large youth conference in Wisconsin. The event was newsworthy because a local Christian radio station had pulled its sponsorship of Lifest in protest of Wallis speaking. As part of his attempt to assuage the president of the radio station, Wallis explained he had "successfully worked with the Obama administration to preserve religious freedom in hiring for faith-based organizations who receive any public funds (such as World Vision and The Salvation Army)." Wallis was a member of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The group was criticized because religious hiring issues were not part of the advisory council's agenda or report in March.

—The American Family Association (AFA) is boycotting NBC's Today Show because it is accepting applications from same-sex couples for its annual on-air wedding contest. The AFA's suggested wording for an email petition stated, "[NBC's] decision to recognize homosexual 'weddings' as akin to that between one man and one woman is an affront to the very sanctity of marriage. Please count me as one who will no longer consider watching NBC's 'Today' show and I reject your attempt to engineer the social acceptance of political correctness."

—Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land was interviewed on FoxNews about his meeting with White House officials regarding the President's recent speech at American University on immigration reform. Land said he favored a single law that would include both border security and comprehensive immigration reform. "The bill is going to have to say: we got to secure the border. Here are the metrics for what a secure border is. Here's the definition. And the government has to certify that the border has been secured. Then and only then would you trigger the second part of the legislation, which would be a six to nine-month grace period to come forward and to get the opportunity to begin to become legal," said Land.

—The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) are encouraging churches "to observe July 18, 2010 as the National Day of Prayer for the Gulf by setting aside time in their weekend services to pray for the people of the Gulf, the Lord's intervention and deliverance, and the impacts of the oil spill on God's creation." The NAE is providing suggestions for prayers, liturgy, and worship.

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site.

Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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