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September 29th, 2010 By | News | Posted In: Congress, Healthcare Reform, Public Policy, 2010 Election

Who's Right in Billboard Brouhaha?


An anti-abortion group is defending the claims it makes on billboards criticizing Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill), but comments from a prominent Catholic bishop appears to support Driehaus' stance.

The Susan B. Anthony List will erect four billboards in the next few days around the city including high-traffic spots along Interstates 75 and 74. The large signs includes a photo of the congressman and state: “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”

The billboards refer to Driehaus' vote to support President Obama's health-care reform bill last March. Initially, Driehaus — a devout Catholic who opposes abortion — was set to oppose the bill until Obama agreed to sign an Executive Order reaffirming the prohibition against federal funding for abortions.

Because independent groups like PolitiFact have noted the law doesn’t allow the use of taxpayer money to provide abortions other than for the same situations previously allowed under the long-standing Hyde Amendment, — which are rape, incest or to save the life of the mother — CityBeat asked the SBA List to explain its billboards.

“The fact that President Obama had to issue an Executive Order that claims to prevent federal dollars from funding abortion proves that the bill allows tax dollars to go towards elective abortions,” said Kerry Brown, a spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List. “The Executive Order not only fails to address all pro-life concerns in the bill, but will not hold up in court. It also does not speak to the fact that if the administration includes abortion as a preventative service, every individual and group health plan will be required to cover it.”

Other groups, however, have noted Executive Orders have had the force of law in the past. For example, such orders were used in the 1950s and ’60s to desegregate public schools and end racial discrimination in federal programs.

In 2001 and 2007, President George W. Bush used Executive Orders to restrict stem-cell research, an action praised by most anti-abortion groups.

But the SBA List has other concerns.

“A Congressional Research Service assessment commissioned by Sens. Enzi and Coburn concluded that the language in the health-care bill and the Executive Order is not sufficient to prevent taxpayer-funded abortions: 'neither the restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Presidential Executive Order 13535, nor the recently released (Health and Human Services) contract materials actually prohibit a state high-risk pool from covering elective abortions,'” Brown said.

“The United States Council of Catholic Bishops agrees that the Executive Order is not sufficient in preventing taxpayer-funded abortion,” she added.

Well, not quite.

Although the council issued a statement in March expressing concern that there were possible loopholes that could allow taxpayer-funded abortions, the group reversed itself in July after the Department of Health and Human Services wrote rules that applied to the high-risk insurance pools.

According to Tidings Online:

“The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities praised the Department of Health and Human Services July 15 for reaffirming that no federal funds will be provided to cover elective abortions under state-run health insurance plans.

“The statement came from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston after HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus said that 'in Pennsylvania and in all other states, abortion will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.'

“The cardinal said the statement averted what could have been an 'alarming precedent' and pointed up the need for a permanent law to exclude abortion from all programs under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Tim Mulvey, Driehaus' campaign spokesman, said the SBA List is deliberately misleading voters.

“This is the latest volley in a campaign of misinformation and scare tactics, using the sensitive issue of abortion to promote a political agenda,” Mulvey said. “We have already seen the Executive Order applied twice, showing that it works as promised.”

National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), however, cites a comment on a White House blog that it believes undercuts that claim.

"Without blinking, the Obama Administration had approved high-risk pool plans submitted by at least three states that would have funded virtually all abortions –- until NRLC raised the alarms starting on July 13," said NRLC representative Douglas Johnson, in a prepared statement. "In the regulation issued (July 29), the Administration tells states that elective abortions may not be covered in the high-risk pool program –- but simultaneously, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, issued a statement on the White House blog explaining that this decision 'is not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program . . .'"

Regardless, the law's intent is clear, Mulvey said.

“We have repeatedly challenged the SBA List, Congressman Chabot, and their allies to identify the single taxpayer dollar used to pay for an abortion,” he added. “They won't, because they can't.”

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