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Public Statements

Affordable Health Care For America Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts-Smith-Kaptur-Dahlkemper Amendment that maintains existing Federal law on the compelling issue of abortion. For 34 years, citizens of conscience on all sides have weighed in on this important moral and legal question. Lawmakers have attempted to accommodate very divergent views, even on the meaning of life itself. Many lives must be considered--the life of the mother, the life of the child, including the unborn but conceived, and in my opinion the rarely mentioned responsibilities of the father as well.

Our legislative struggle to do what is proper is rooted in interrelated moral, scientific, legal, and yes, theological dissonances. What is right? What should be legal? And what will lead to a just and responsible society for all? I continue to approach this deeply moving issue as a representative from a widely diverse Congressional district in northwestern Ohio, an area of our Nation comprised of people from many different ethnicities, races, faiths, denominations and belief systems. My representation of these varying views embodies the deepest respect for all our people, and for the integrity with which they have arrived at their values.

This amendment reaffirms longstanding, existing law, and nothing more. It represents the broad consensus of the American people after decades of consideration on the issue. Recent Gallup polls show that 51 percent of Americans consider themselves ``pro-life'' on the issue of abortion. But, this amendment does not resolve all moral questions that face pro choice, prolife, and non-aligned Americans on this issue. All it does is restate existing law.

It states that no Federal funds ``authorized under this Act may be used to pay for any abortion, or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,'' except in the cases of the life of the mother, rape or incest.

Effectively, the precedent setting Hyde amendment--which has been in effect for 34 years in our Nation--will apply to the public option, and to any Federal plans which include elective abortion. The amendment does no more, and no less. Further, with the added coverage for all Americans that this bill provides, perhaps the abortion choice will become less attractive for those faced with such a life wrenching choice.

This amendment will not bar any one from purchasing their own private supplemental rider. Our language is the same that applies in current law on Medicaid, Medicare, the Children's Health Insurance Plan, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, FEHBP, itself which offers many private insurance plans. The FEHBP is a model for how this language will be applied. It has been tried, tested, and proven.

The inclusion of this amendment clarifies the bill's language on the potential fungibility of premium dollars deposited in Federal accounts that could result in federally sanctioned insurance paid for by taxes, premiums, or Federal subsidies diverted to pay for abortions by those who do not agree with the procedure.

Importantly, for the first time, the base measure itself will help vast scores of women to obtain health coverage and, by so doing limit abortion by enhancing broad coverage options for women's and children's health. The rate of infant mortality, which is fueled by shamefully high rates of premature birth in the United States, shows us that we are not addressing the needs of mother's and their babies. Providing the necessary support for women is the answer. This bill will vastly improve preventive care, double funds available to community health centers including obstetric and gynecological care, and move America fully into this 21st century. No woman, no woman--including poor women, pregnant women, unemployed women, working women, single women, and nursing women--will be left out of health insurance coverage.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.

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