Obama’s Closed-Door Signing Of Executive Order On Abortion Funding Raises Objections
President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday pledging that no federal funding will be used for abortion under the new health bill.
"The order had been demanded by a key bloc of antiabortion Democrats as the price for their support for the health bill that narrowly passed the House Sunday night," The Associated Press/The Boston Globe reports. "Since then it has been criticized by abortion opponents who say it has no actual impact other than restating restrictions on abortion funding already in the law. Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, the leader of the antiabortion bloc of Democrats, insisted that is not the case. Lawmakers supporting abortion rights did not object to the order because they said it made no difference" (Werner, 3/25).
USA Today: "Both sides in the abortion debate came to a rare agreement" on the measure, which they said "was basically meaningless. 'A transparent political fig leaf,' according to the National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson. 'A symbolic gesture,' said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. The White House and Democratic leaders initially said a ban wasn't necessary because a precedent set in 1976 with the so-called Hyde amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions in the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor, would apply. Stupak and other abortion opponents weren't convinced that a ban that applies to Medicaid would necessarily apply to new health exchanges, or marketplaces where the uninsured and small businesses could comparison shop for insurance" (Hall, 3/25).
The Washington Post: The order has "has stunned and infuriated many women's groups and abortion rights advocates. 'Women elected him,' said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. ... 'It's health reform that has been achieved on the backs of women and at the expense of women.' The anger also stems from language in the legislation that allows abortion to be covered by health insurance plans offered on new 'exchanges,' but requires buyers to make two premium payments -- one for most of their coverage and a second, far smaller one, for abortion coverage" (Stein, 3/25).
Kaiser Health News has the text of the order (3/24).
Roll Call: "House Republican leaders blasted Obama for using his executive power for political reasons, saying the order will have no effect. 'It is a transparent attempt to provide political cover to Washington Democrats who betrayed their constituents by voting to allow taxpayer-funded abortion in the United States for the first time in 30 years,' Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement" (Bendery, 3/24).
The Associated Press, in a separate story: "Unlike Tuesday, when a beaming Obama signed the health care law in a nationally televised ceremony interrupted repeatedly by applause, the White House refused to permit coverage of the event. It occurred in the Oval Office in the presence of a small group of anti-abortion Democratic lawmakers who had extracted the commitment over the weekend. The president supports abortion rights" (Espo, 3/25).
The Washington Times: "The White House was mum on its reasons for secrecy. Asked about the lack of transparency, press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters they would receive a handout photo from the official administration photographer to document the event. 'We'll have a nice picture from Pete [Souza] that will demonstrate that type of transparency," Mr. Gibbs said Wednesday" (Rowland, 3/25).
Politico: The decision to bar the press "drew fire from some in the White House press corps, who said it went against President Barack Obama's frequent pledges of transparency [S]ome news organizations, including CNN and POLITICO, declined to use" the photo provided by the White House. "'That is not independent coverage,' CNN's Ed Henry said of the photo on 'The Situation Room.' 'While Pete Souza is a great photographer, he's on the White House payroll'" (Marr, 3/24).