At this late hour in the debate over healthcare reform, the battle over abortion and healthcare has a new face: His name is Congressman Brad Ellsworth. And Friday he will be the man in the spotlight. Folks, the healthcare abortion debate in the House is now in its final stages and this man below is set to play a critical role.
He's a pro-life Democrat from Indiana with a 100% rating this year with National Right to Life (his overall rating through the years is 90%) but the pro-life lobbying group is simply appalled at what he is trying to do change the complex abortion language issue. Ellsworth says he's trying to make the bill more pro-life but pro-life organizations say it's a phony amendment.
As you may know, pro-life Democrats and Democratic leadership in the House are trying to come up with language on abortion that will satisfy these 40 or so pro-life Democrats who believe that as it stands now, the healthcare reform bill would allow federal funds to go to pay for abortions. If an agreement isn't reached then these Democrats are threatening to stand with Republicans and take down this healthcare bill. Here's where Ellsworth comes in.
The Congressman from Indiana and his staff have put forward an amendment to the House bill. We'll find out Friday afternoon if it will be adopted. We understand he's still working on the amendment and tinkering with it. The goal here is to get enough pro-life Democrats to back this new abortion language so they'll back the underlying healthcare reform bill. Friday is going to be a very interesting day. Pro-Life groups can only hope and pray that Ellsworth's amendment doesn't attract enough pro-life Democrats because if not this healthcare reform bill is going to pass.
Read what Ellsworth's staff writes about the underlying principles of his amendment on his website:
Ellsworth's proposal would make 5 key pro-life changes to the bill;
effectively preventing federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortions and ensuring Americans have access to pro-life insurance options in the proposed Health Insurance Exchange:
Explicitly prevents all federal tax dollars from being used to provide abortions in the public option;
Prohibits any funds from the US Treasury from paying for abortion services in any of the plans purchased through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange-private or public;
Establishes clear, strict rules for separating public funds from the premiums of private individuals (ensuring that no public funds are ever used to pay for an abortion in any health plan offered on the Health Insurance Exchange);
Guarantees every American participating in the Health Insurance Exchange will always have access to a pro-life insurance option;
Expands conscience protections to prevent the government from discriminating against pro-life health insurance plans.
If you're a pro-lifer that sounds great right? Well, pro-life groups and other pro-life congressmen have gone through the amendment and hate it. Read below from the Baptist Press:
Ellsworth, who has had a nearly perfect pro-life voting record since entering the House in 2007, said he is seeking "to ensure pro-life concerns are addressed" in the bill. House pro-life leaders, as well as anti-abortion organizations, criticized Ellsworth's amendment as a sham, saying it fails to address any pro-life concerns. His solution to the problem with the "public option," they said, is to have the federal government hire private contractors to disburse funds for abortions.
Ellsworth's proposal is a "phony amendment designed to subsidize and expand the abortion industry cloaked in deceptive language," Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., said in a written statement. "Under the new arrangement, instead of [a Health and Human Services] employee issuing blood money checks for elective abortions, HHS will pay a contractor to issue checks for abortion on demand.
"It is a distinction without a difference," he said.
"This language amounts to the federal government taking out a 'contract' on the unborn," Smith said. "For the first time ever an elaborate government program will be created to pay contractors to pay abortionists for the dismemberment, chemical poisoning and in utero starvation of innocent unborn children."
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said in a written release, "The Ellsworth language is a political fig leaf made out of cellophane.... This is a money-laundering scheme -- a federally funded 'bag man' will deliver government funds to abortionists."
More dissection of the amendment and its language here and here
The moderate (some would say progressive) group "Third Way" has sent The Brody File their reaction to the Ellsworth amendment: Link here. Transcription below.
Rep. Ellsworth’s amendment builds off of an earlier good faith attempt offered by prochoice Rep. Lois Capps that was included in the Energy and Commerce Committee’s draft bill. Below we explain how the Ellsworth Amendment moves the bill in a pro-life direction but still maintains abortion neutrality. Rep. Ellsworth has a 100% score with National Right to Life and Rep. Capps has a 100% NARAL rating. We commend each of them for trying to strike this delicate balance.
1. The Ellsworth Amendment ensures that no federal funds can ever be used to fund abortion in the Exchange.
The Capps Amendment stated that no federal subsidies to individuals in the form of “Affordability Credits” can be used to pay for abortion coverage. The Ellsworth Amendment expands this ban to apply to any and all “other federal funds” that do now or may in the future fund the Exchange. This means that any additional federal dollars, even those beyond “Affordability Credits,” that may be designated to fund the Exchange (i.e. as part of a future stimulus package) will now not be able to fund abortions.
2. The Ellsworth Amendment codifies [or “puts into permanent law”] strict Hyde limitations on the pro-life plan.
Under the Capps Amendment, at least one plan in the Exchange must be available that covers abortion services only in Hyde Amendment exceptions (in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment). And this plan can, in fact, choose not to even cover Hyde abortions. From the pro-life perspective, the shortcoming of the Capps Amendment is that although the Hyde Amendment has been in law for more than 30 years, it is not permanent law—it is renewed each year as part of a Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill. The Ellsworth Amendment ensures that even if the Hyde Amendment lapses or changes, at least one plan in the Exchange will still meet the Hyde Amendment standards by providing abortion only in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment, while still making it clear that this plan need not cover abortions at all. In sum, this provision enshrines the Hyde Amendment protections in federal law for the one required pro-life plan in the Exchange, guaranteeing that pro-life Americans always will be assured of this option.
3. The Ellsworth Amendment gives greater protection to insurance plans that do not cover abortion.
Under the Capps Amendment, abortion coverage is specifically banned from the minimum essential benefits requirements for insurance plans both in and out of the Exchange. The Ellsworth Amendment tightens this provision by ensuring that plans that do not cover abortion are not penalized in any way by the Commissioner, who administers the day-to-day workings of the Exchange. It requires that the Commissioner “not discriminate” against a plan based on whether or not they cover abortion. This broadens protections that pro-life plans have in the Exchange. For example, it would ban discrimination against pro-life plans wanting to get into the Exchange after the first required pro-life plan has filled that “slot.”
4. The Ellsworth Amendment ensures that the federal government has no role in collecting or paying abortion claims if there is a public plan.
The Capps Amendment assumed that, if a public plan were enacted, the federal government could itself be the administrator of the plan and in that case, the federal government would collect the private premiums, segregate funds that can be used to pay for abortion and also pay for the abortion claims out of the segregated funds. The Ellsworth Amendment would remove the federal government from this direct interaction with abortion by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use a private contractor to collect, segregate, and pay all abortion claims. This idea is
modeled on Medicare, which relies on private contractors to carry out much of its administrative work.
5. The Ellsworth Amendment strengthens the guarantee of segregation of funds.
Under the Capps Amendment, the plan would have to “provide assurances satisfactory to the Commissioner” that funds were being segregated for the purpose of ensuring that federal tax dollars were not being used to pay for abortions. The Ellsworth Amendment raises the bar by requiring that segregation of funds comply with three separate standards: Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; Office of Management and Budget circulars on fund management; and guidance on accounting from the Government Accountability Office.