This column originally appeared on The American Spectator on August 24, 2009.
Now that Barack Obama has decided to push for a hyper-partisan healthcare bill, the issue of taxpayer-funded abortions is front-and-center. The current proposals would lead to this taxpayer mandate, and could even drive conscientiously objecting doctors out of medicine.
The New York Times wrongly reported that Mr. Obama has decided to go it alone with Democrats in Congress, passing a bill without Republican support. That’s untrue. The decision they’re making is to pass a bill without any moderate Democrats — in other words, a bill of the Far Left.
The liberal officials and activists comprising the Far Left make perfectly clear that their highest social priority is abortion. More than same-sex marriage or gun control, abortion is their defining social issue. So legislation for Obamacare written exclusively by liberal Democrats will protect their agenda.
That means one thing: Obamacare will mandate taxpayer-funded abortions.
Ever since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prevented most federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortions in America. The late pro-life stalwart, Congressman Henry Hyde, inserted the amendment (that must be renewed each time) into the law funding Medicaid to prevent taxpayer money from paying for Medicaid recipients’ abortions.
But the Obamacare proposals being debated would change that in one of two ways. First, if the legislation does not expressly refuse funding for abortion, then under normal rules of statutory interpretation it would be presumed that funds could be used for that purpose.
Second, Obamacare would eventually lead to abortion funding, even if it excluded it for several years. Once Obamacare is in place, it would fund healthcare at prices below what private insurers could offer. The government’s deficit each year would be paid by tax revenues. Insurance companies would either lose business because they were more expensive, or they would go into the red if they tried to compete at the same price. Either way, private insurers would go bankrupt, and everyone will be on the government plan.
Once the government plan was the sole source of money to healthcare providers, government protocols as to what conditions providers must meet to be eligible to receive federal money would directly dictate treatment decisions. (Obamacare could even exert that influence beforehand, because at some point it will be the single largest payer for every provider, money the provider couldn’t do without.)
This danger goes beyond forfeiting reimbursement for individual treatments. The federal government will have criteria that a provider must satisfy to be eligible for federal funds. The government would make abiding by its treatment protocols a condition to remain eligible. These protocols would include who gets what treatment, in what order patients are treated (this is government rationing), and providing abortions on demand. Violating these protocols would make that provider ineligible for funds.
Once Obamacare becomes the sole source of funds, becoming ineligible means going bankrupt. Distressed over losing their entire careers and aware of how their closure would cause more deaths and suffering by leaving people without care, most providers would rather cave on this narrow issue than close shop.
Talking heads on the Far Left openly say that they believe it’s okay for the government to yank someone’s medical license for refusing to perform abortions. Some, such as Alan Colmes on Fox News, said that this amounts to denying needed care to a person that the person is entitled to, and that it’s not wrong for a provider refusing to perform abortions to be shut down.
The reason they’re so militant on this issue is because the Far Left believes that taxpayer-funded abortions are a constitutional right. Everyone’s heard of Roe v. Wade. Fewer have heard of Harris v. McRae, where the Court held in 1980 that the right to an abortion does not include the right to force taxpayers to fund that abortion.
Most people don’t appreciate how close the Supreme Court is to simply declaring a right to taxpayer-funded abortions. Harris v. McRae was a 5-4 decision; four liberal justices wrote that everyone has such a right.
The current Supreme Court is likely only a single vote from overturning this decision, and declaring taxpayer funding to be commanded by the Constitution. Barack Obama may yet have the chance to change that balance on the Court.
So both legislatively and judicially, taxpayer-funded abortions teeters on a knife’s edge. Doctors’ rights of conscience, whether religious or otherwise, are in critical danger, and Americans should rally to doctors’ sides to stop this outrageous aspect of Obamacare from becoming law.