Health Care, Abortion, and Obama's Executive Order: Political Trickery at its Finest

Jenny Erikson
Photo by Kristen Bons

Way back in 2008, a campaigning Senator Obama made health care reform a keystone of his run for the Presidency. In light of that, it's no wonder that he has spent the past year trying to pass health care legislation. 

For that, I don't blame the guy. Our health care system is going bankrupt. Businesses are beginning to deny Medicaid and Medicare patients. Small businesses struggle to provide health care coverage to their employees. Families go bankrupt when unexpected health care issues arise.


Obviously, to anyone with a brain to think or a heart to feel, something needs to be done. But the health care bill passed by Congress on Sunday and set to be signed into law by the President today is not the answer.

This health care bill has been tossed back and forth by congress for over a year now. And every time it comes up for debate, it seems to hinge on one key issue. Not just a woman's right to choose to keep her pregnancy or abort it, but whether or not tax-payer money should go to fund her abortion.

This is a very sensitive issue, with many advocates on both sides. Although the term "pro-life" is usually associated with Republicans while "pro-choice" is associated with Democrats, it turns out that there were many Democrats in Congress that were opposed to the federal funding of elective abortions.

One of the most vocal Democrats in the pro-life arena was Bart Stupak. This Michigan House member wanted specific language in the health care bill that would ban federal funding of elective abortions. In fact, thanks to Stupak's amendment, the health care bill passed the House of Representatives with a majority vote.

Next up, the Senate. The Senate made many changes to the House bill, one of which was to abandon Stupak's amendment prohibiting funds for elective abortions. That bill passed through the Senate in a 60-39 majority vote on Christmas Eve 2009. Not a single Republican voted for it.

So now what? We essentially had two different bills passed by two separate houses of Congress. And with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in January 2010, it seemed unlikely that the Democrats could pass a filibuster proof bill. With tricky politics, the Senate bill went back to the House to be approved. If the House of Representatives approved the Senate bill, it could be signed into law by President Obama.

But, oh, that problematic abortion issue! What was a pro-life House Democrat to do? At first glance, obviously oppose the bill. Even if a pro-life Democrat believed in the other parts of the health care bill, a strict adherence to their principles would prohibit them from approving a bill that would allow for an everyday American's money to fund elective abortions.

Enter President Obama. He promised to sign an executive order that would prohibit the federal funding of elective abortions. Perfect for the pro-life Democrats. They could have their cake and eat it too. They got health care reform passed, and could appease their conscience and their constituents.

Except for one teeny tiny little flaw. A president may not sign an executive order that trumps law.

Because Roe v. Wade essentially defined abortion as a medical procedure not to be denied to women, any health care legislation passed must specifically prohibit federal funding of the practice. The health care bill that will be signed into law today contains no such language. Therefore any executive order on the subject will be thrown out in court, thus allowing federally funded abortions.

Even Bart Stupak himself admitted as much Monday during an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

There is nothing that would stop this president from a month from now, a year from now, ten years from now, of repealing this executive order ... The only option you had was leave the Senate language or strengthen it to prevent abortions under an executive order -- that's what we did, we stayed true to those principles - or vote no ... So you kill the bill and we do not have health care ... I've always said I want to see health care for the nation.

Anyone that supports this health care bill needs to take a look at how it was passed. It was passed with trickery and deception. Whichever side of the abortion issue a person falls on, I hope that everyone sees that a completely partisan bill passed into law by subterfuge by our lawmakers is just plain wrong.

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