Kudos to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who explains in a way we can finally understand just how the Senate’s health care plan overturns the Hyde Amendment and makes millions of Americans pay for abortions. She did an interview with Morra Aaron-Mele of BlogHer yesterday, which you can see here. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has the money quote:
SEBELIUS: And I would say that the Senate language, which was negotiated by Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, who are very strong defenders of women’s health services and choices for women, take a big step forward from where the House left it with the Stupak amendment, and I think do a good job making sure there are choices for women, making sure there are going to be some plan options, and making sure that while public funds aren’t used, we are not isolating, discriminating against, or invading the privacy rights of women. That would be an accounting procedure, but everybody in the exchange would do the same thing, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re 75 or 25, you would all set aside a portion of your premium that would go into a fund, and it would not be earmarked for anything, it would be a separate account that everyone in the exchange would pay.
BLOGHER: It’s a bit confusing, but …
SEBELIUS: Okay. It is a bit confusing, but it’s really an accounting that would apply across the board and not just to women, and certainly not just to women who want to choose abortion coverage.
BLOGHER: Oh, that’s good, that’s good.
Got that? The claim of supporters of this “compromise” is that no “public funds” will be used to pay for abortions under this bill. What will pay for them, however, are the special premiums that all participants in insurance plans the “Exchange” (which is to say, tens of millions of people) will pay that are specifically designated to pay for abortion. There is no way, if you buy a plan through the Exchange, to avoid paying for abortion. But that’s OK, because your taxes won’t be doing so. Only your premiums. Feel better now?
It should be noted that among the supporters of this shell game are a number of people who loudly proclaim that they are pro-life, unless, apparently, the accounting is done just right. Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy has some of the names:
Evangelical signers include leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), though not the NAE itself, such as Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, Christianity Today editor David Neff, and immigration activist Samuel Rodriguez. Others are Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action and Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren, along with NAE’s controversial former spokesman and Global Warming activist Richard Cizik, now employed by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Critics of U.S. “torture” policies David Gushee of Mercer University and Glenn Stassen of Fuller Seminary, also signed. Sojourners activist Jim Wallis is apparently a signer too.
Catholic signers include Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine Law School and Obama’s nominated ambassador to Malta, Simone Campbell of NETWORK, a liberal Catholic activist group, Sister Marlene Weisenbeck of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and numerous academics from Fordham, Notre Dame, Catholic University and Boston College among others. The Catholic Health Association also endorsed it.
Now, I should add a caveat here: I’ve never thought that the federal ban on abortion funding to be an especially important tactic in the struggle to stop the killing of the unborn. Most abortions take place in states that still fund it using state money, and I doubt that the ban has had much effect on the overall abortion rate. As far as the argument that abortion foes shouldn’t have their tax money go to something they object to on moral and religious grounds, well, there’s lots of stuff the federal government pays for to which many people object (there’s a small number of people every year who refuse to pay the portion of their federal taxes that they figure goes to the Pentagon). So in that sense I think this is not that big an issue.
What I really object to here is two-fold: on the one hand, being treated like a moron by congresscritters who think I can’t recognize sleight of hand and other forms of deceitful practice when I see it; and on the other, watching certain Christian leaders act as though black is white just so they can get what they really want (I’d have been a lot happier if they’d just said, “we know this is a sham, but the bill as a whole is so important, we just decided to give Reid and his buddies a pass”). I especially think there are some folks at the NAE (Hunter, Neff, and Rodriguez are members of the Executive Board) who’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do to those of us whose denominations are members of that organization.