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Beyond Abortion: The New Debate Over the Health Care Bill Debate

From Family Research Council to Sojourners, disappointment over both policy and procedure.

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.

Odds and Ends

  • American Family Association founder Don Wildmon resigned as chairman of the organization this week. His son Tim Wildmon will likely take the helm of the AFA. See more on the CT Politics blog.
  • At a Focus on the Family chapel service to say farewell to retiring James Dobson, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family Action recounted Dobson's impact on public policy organizations. Dobson helped found three national policy organizations (American Family Association, Alliance Defense Fund, and Family Research Council) and 37 state family policy councils. According to Minnery, in 2010 these 40 organizations have 548 full-time employees and a combined budget of $89 million.
  • On Wednesday, gay couples could begin applying for marriage licenses in the District of Columbia, despite last-minute efforts by the ELRC's Richard Land others to lobby Congress to override the D.C. City Council decision by allowing a referendum on the question. Bruce Hausknecht of Focus on the Family Action, however, said the fight is not over. "We could end up with another California situation with same-sex marriage existing for a time before a return to one-man, one-woman marriage," said Hausknecht.
  • Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary discussed the new pro-life billboards popping up around Atlanta that say, "Black children are an endangered species." Mohler asked, "Is America content to be the land where every baby in the womb is endangered, and where black babies are at even greater risk? That question should haunt every single American."
  • Goshen College recently decided to play the national anthem at the start of sporting events, a policy that caused headlines because it raised the ire of alumni and students of the Anabaptist college. Duane Shank wrote on Sojourners God's Politics blog that he supports the college, despite being a Mennonite and a pacifist. Shank said the national anthem "is the affirmation of patriotism; my love of this country, its people, and its best values that inform me in being critical of it. To be sure, American history includes slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, imperialism, the bombing of Hiroshima, and the Vietnam and Iraq wars. But it also includes the abolitionists, women's suffragists, labor organizers, and the civil rights movement. By affirming their desire to have the country live up to its best values, these forebears of ours were expressing a true patriotism that we should emulate."

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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