Article Jul 10, 2017

Needed pro-life protections in potential healthcare legislation

The right approach to healthcare policy is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree and is an issue that falls outside the ERLC’s mandate and charge as an organization. But while Southern Baptists hold a variety of views about healthcare policy, including the appropriate role of government, we are nevertheless united in advocating for healthcare policies which affirm human dignity and affirm the ways that Christians and people of conscience have contributed to the practice of medicine in the United States.

Accordingly, we believe any healthcare legislation considered by the Congress must do three things: redirect government funds from Planned Parenthood, ensure that no taxpayer funding is used for abortion services, and protect the consciences of medical professionals who may be otherwise required to act against their moral convictions in the course of their jobs.

Congress is currently considering a major overhaul of the Affordable Care Act; whatever comes from the Senate negotiations and the conference discussions, the ERLC maintains three priorities:

1. Defund Planned Parenthood and Redirect Funds to FQHCs

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States. Investigative journalism has demonstrated that Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies to research facilities and works to expand the market for baby parts. In spite of this, Planned Parenthood receives almost a half billion dollars in taxpayer money every year. Since government funding makes up 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue each year, ending this government funding has been a longstanding pro-life goal.

Planned Parenthood targets underprivileged areas for its abortion and contraception services, and provides other incidental medical services. However, Federally Qualified Health Centers provide a much wider range of health services and much broader geographic coverage. FQHCs also differ from Planned Parenthood in that they do not provide abortion service. Redirecting money to FQHCs would allow women to continue receive the health care they need, even with a reduced number of Planned Parenthood facilities.

2. Ensure no taxpayer funding goes to abortion services

Abortion is not healthcare. As such, taxpayer money designated for healthcare should never be used to pay for abortion services. Whatever changes may be made to existing healthcare laws, Congress should ensure that no tax credits, subsidies, or other sources of federal funding may be used for abortion services.

Since 1976, taxpayer funds have been protected from funding abortion in large part by what is now called the Hyde Amendment. In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment was introduced to prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion. Since its enactment, Congress has passed the amendment as an appropriations rider that expires each year. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would codify the Hyde Amendment and make it permanent by prohibiting federal funds from being expended for abortion or health insurance that includes coverage for elective abortions.

3. Protect the consciences of medical professionals

Pro-life healthcare professionals should have the right to administer care in accordance with their consciences. No healthcare worker should be forced to participate in abortions or other medical procedures that conflict with their religiously informed conscience. To protect this right, the Conscience Protection Act would give healthcare professionals the ability to defend themselves in court when states infringe their conscience rights, as is already happening in California and New York.

Conclusion

In this current political moment, there is pro-life leadership in both houses of Congress and in the White House. Indeed, the 2016 Republican Party Platform made multiple commitments to a pro-life ethic connected to their promises to reform American healthcare. Among them:

“We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare . . . We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.”

The pro-life community anticipates and expects any health care reform bill to be fully pro-life. As the ERLC works with the House and Senate through this effort to reform the American healthcare system, we commend House and Senate leadership for their efforts to deliver legislation that fully reflects a pro-life ethic.