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Federally funded abortions are in our future

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By Kathleen Parker
Sunday, March 28, 2010

Health care is the next-to-last thing I want to write about. The last thing is abortion, so this column is a banquet of tortures.

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Usually, I would not return so soon to a topic that I tend to associate with the pleasures of head-banging, but broad misunderstanding about what's in the health-care-reform law justifies another lap.

Still cloudy is whether the new law of the land allows funding for abortions and whether President Obama's executive order is of any real (judicially enforceable) value. The answer to the latter is in little dispute. It is no. An executive order cannot override a statute.

As to the funding issue, well, it's intentionally complicated. And suffice to say, it shouldn't be.

Defenders argue that: (1) nowhere does the bill say funds will go toward abortion; (2) the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, applies.

Both assertions are true -- up to a point. The issue isn't what the bill says; it's what it doesn't say.

No one should apologize for being confused, by the way. If not for the patient tutoring of brilliant lawyers, Capitol Hill staffers, medical experts and others, I would be hugging my knees alternately muttering "Who's Jacob?" and "Ibid, Subsection C (1)(a)."

To the first argument: Of course the bill doesn't explicitly state that it appropriates abortion funding. In fact, it takes pains to use terminology that seems to explicitly forbid it. But other areas are swampier. And, indeed, funds could be used to pay for abortion under circumstances that predictably will evolve.

History and precedent tell us this much.

For one thing, the Hyde Amendment is a rider that must be lobbied and attached each year to the annual Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill. Under its terms, the amendment applies only to those funds.

Rather than following the usual course of funding community health centers (CHCs) through the Labor/HHS budget, the health-care-reform measure does an end run around Hyde by directly appropriating billions of dollars into a new CHC fund.

Because the Obama administration's "fix-it" bill did not include the abortion-ban language proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), those billions appropriated to CHCs simply are not covered by Hyde.


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