A friend just wrote the following blistering letter to his and my ostensibly pro-life, "Blue Dog" Democrat Congressman, Charlie Wilson, OH 6. I recommend reading right through the end, but once you start I think you'll find it hard not to read all the way through. Enjoy...
Dear Congressman Wilson,
I received your letter this past Friday and was frankly disappointed at the way that you persist in repeating thoroughly discredited talking points as though all of your constituents were too dumb to know the difference. Even the AP (not noted for their conservative bias) and FactCheck.org (funded by the left-leaning Annenberg Foundation) confirms the simple fact that the Hyde amendment would not restrict the new streams of federal funding created by Obamacare from funding abortions.
Both Democrat bills do in fact provide taxpayer money for abortions. This is not a matter of opinion; it is not a question of interpretation or legislative intent; it is just a statement of fact. It follows that, like White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you are either lying about the bill or have not looked into it carefully enough to inform yourself about some of its most troubling provisions.
For a long time this year, I have defended you in conversation after conversation here in the District. I explained to people that you are a relatively new Congressman, that you are a mortician by training and not a lawyer, that you wanted to do the right thing, that (while you clearly wouldn’t say no to President Obama or Speaker Pelosi on spending issues) you really did have a pro-life voting record so far. I pointed out that you had made at least symbolic pro-life votes like voting with the minority to defund Planned Parenthood (symbolic of course because the leadership only allowed a vote knowing that it couldn’t pass). I argued that as soon as you’d had a chance to really understand what was in the bill, you would take a stand.
Though it became harder, I continued to make that argument even after the telephone town hall where you just read the White House and Speaker’s Office talking points. I don’t think I can continue making that case anymore. In fact, I’m not sure that you’d want me to since, at this point, the only case I can make in your favor is starting to sound a lot like “Wilson’s not a liar, he’s an idiot.”
My friends want to know why their Congressman knows less about the bill than they do; why they know what the Capps amendment does and you (as you demonstrate in your letter) do not. You have to admit, it’s a fair question.
Let me be clear, I am not opposed to health care reform. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who believes that we can just let things run as they are. Everyone knows that the current American health care system, while it is the most effective in the world at treating illness, has serious and systemic problems that cannot be left unaddressed: problems of burgeoning costs and problems of access to that system for everyone.
There is a lot of room for legitimate disagreement on how we set about fixing these problems. The stakes are very high. Getting it wrong could be economically disastrous and consensus seems elusive. Entrenched special interests are all pleading for their little piece of the pie and some of your colleagues are clearly more focused on winning the next election than solving the problems. I get it. This is a tough and tangled problem and there just is not going to be a simple solution that everyone is happy with. I’m glad that you have slowed down the insane rush that the White House was trying to gin up and I hope that, despite appearances, your leadership will permit a real debate to take place.
But there are some areas that should be easy to come to consensus on. Seven out of ten Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding for abortion. I haven’t seen the crosstabs but I’d be willing to bet that it’s even higher than that here in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District. When I called your DC office, your staffer Emily told me that you wanted to be “pretty much pro-life” yourself. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but surely it includes not spending taxpayer dollars on abortion.
This is not a question that you can continue to ride the fence on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own set of facts. The letter that you sent contained grave factual errors. In particular, you cite the Hyde Amendment as though it automatically applies to Obamacare (HR3200); you should know that it does not. You go on to grossly mischaracterize the provisions of the Capps amendment (in language that makes me suspect that perhaps you have been talking to lawyers after all).
Here are the facts. The Capps amendment explicitly requires at least one plan in every area to cover abortion. It requires the public option plan to pay for all abortions where rape or incest are involved. It permits the public option to cover all other abortions, provided that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (a notorious supporter of even the most gruesome late-term abortions) approves.
You are technically correct when you say that the Capps amendment provides that no tax dollars are supposed to be spent directly funding abortions in subsidized private plans. But that’s double-talk and everyone knows it. It’s like saying you’re only putting water in one side of a bucket and not the other. It's nothing but a dodgy accounting trick. Under the Capps amendment, a private insurance plan, purchased with taxpayer subsidies, can provide full abortion services coverage (and at least one plan everywhere must provide it) so long as the insurance company collects at least “$1 per enrollee, per month” [see section 113(b)(2)(C)].
Whether you want to admit it or not, Congressman, that’s taxpayer-funded abortion. If you have not read the Capps amendment for yourself, I urge you to do so; it is only seven pages long.
I understand that it is difficult to break with your Party leadership. I understand that to do so will upset some of your donors and supporters. But this is a question of maintaining your integrity. It is a test of your character. Can you do the right thing even when it’s hard?
And it is not as though you are all alone in this. As I understand it, there are 40 of your Democrat colleagues in the House who have stepped up with the Honorable Bart Stupak (D-1-MI) to oppose taxpayer-funded abortion and demand at least an up or down vote on Mr. Stupak’s amendment (see below). My friends and I will be praying that you find the courage to join them.
I would appreciate hearing from you. Please write to me again when you’ve made your decision as to which side of this issue you will be on when you come down off the fence.
P.S. Here is the complete text of Mr. Stupak’s amendment that really will do what you claimed in your letter the Capps amendment does:
No funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment made by 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 case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.