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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Protect Life Act to prevent tax funding of abortion generates heat in Hill hearing

I attended a contentious hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Wednesday on the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358. The bill amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to prevent federal funding for abortion or abortion coverage through the government-related exchanges, community health centers, the OPM administered plans, or any other program authorized or appropriated by the bill. The bill also provides conscience protections for healthcare professionals and institutions, by codifying the Hyde-Weldon provision to protect health care providers from being penalized by state and local governments or by the federal government for refusing to participate in providing abortions.
Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts was joined at the hearing by Reps. Burgess, Cassidy and Gingrey--all physicians--Blackburn, Guthrie, Latta, Myrick, McMorris Rodgers, T. Murphy, and Upton.
Minority party members of the committee attempted to portray bill supporters as extreme, and when that failed, to criticize the majority for not focusing on job creation. The bill was made necessary, however, by the failure of the previous Democrat-controlled Congress and President Obama to include a bona fide prohibition on taxpayer funding on abortion in the original healthcare reform bill, which occupied much of the previous Congress instead of job creation.
When all other arguments against the bill failed, Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY) resorted to histrionics, to the delight and laughter of his colleagues in the minority.
The Subcommittee heard from three well-informed witnesses: Douglas Johnson (written statement available here) of the National Right to Life Committee, Helen Alvare (written statement available here) from George Mason University School of Law and Sara Rosenbaum from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. My friend Doug Johnson and Ms. Alvare showed admirable forbearance and ably parried the thrusts of the pro-abortion Members who frequently interrupted them and refused to let them finish their answers. So besides highlighting the contrast in respect for the lives of the unborn, the hearing also highlighted the contrast between the civil and uncivil. Welcome to Washington.

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