The Corner

Obama vs. Stupak

The Stupak amendment — which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for most abortions — has more bipartisan support than almost any other provision of the House health-care bill. President Obama just came out against it.

Asked by Jake Tapper of ABC whether the amendment meets the president’s promise that health-care reform will not fund abortion or “goes too far,” Obama had this to say:

You know, I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. And we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.

And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test—that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices, because one of the pledges I made in that same speech was to say that if you’re happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, that it’s not going to change.

So, you know, this is going to be a complex set of negotiations. I’m confident that we can actually arrive at this place where neither side feels that it’s being betrayed. But it’s going to take some time. . . .

I think that there are strong feelings [about the amendment] on both sides. And what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo.

These remarks are a masterpiece of misrepresentation. Obama’s actual record is of someone who wants federal funding of abortion without having to pay a political price for it.

There were, after all, “strong feelings” about the unamended legislation, which pro-lifers criticized for funding abortion. Did Obama say then that the legislation needed to be changed to allay those concerns? No: He claimed that the critics were “bearing false witness.” In a televised address to a joint session of Congress, he said that the idea that the plan funded abortion was a “misunderstanding.” Only now, when the abortion lobby is unhappy with the legislation, does Obama think it needs to be changed. But he’s not willing to state his position honestly.

Nor, of course, has Obama intervened to change other provisions that will do more to change people’s insurance arrangements against their will than the Stupak amendment could (Obama favors cutting Medicare Advantage, which will force many seniors out of their plans altogether).

He wasn’t telling the truth about the legislation when he accused pro-lifers of lying; and he’s not telling the truth now.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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