Don't let 'TrumpCare' come at the cost of Trump's pro-life pledge

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article was co-written with Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life . This article appeared in The Hill on March 19, 2017.

Abortion is not healthcare. Our laws should reflect this basic principle, no matter which political party happens to be in power.

Last week, House Leadership released the “American Healthcare Act,” outlining a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Many conservative groups have weighed in against the plan for a variety of reasons. Our two organizations — March for Life and Family Research Council — have concerns that the bill needs further work on guaranteeing that pro-life protections will survive in the final version of the bill that is set to pass the House.

We are delighted that the House’s American Healthcare Act included the same key pro-life provisions that we supported in 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill, dismantling ObamaCare's abortion insurance subsidies and excluding Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, from Medicaid reimbursements for one year and redirecting that money to Federally Qualified Health Centers. These health care centers provide the full range of women’s health care and not abortion, already outnumbering Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide by a ratio of 20 to 1.

Until Congress specifically states that abortion is not healthcare, and statutorily excludes it from healthcare programs, the courts along with agency precedent show that abortion will be included when the government funds healthcare.

While we are encouraged that House Republicans have taken the first step to apply pro-life funding protections to the new healthcare programs, such as the Patient and State Stability Fund and provisions related to healthcare tax credits, we are concerned that these provisions, in their current form, may not survive the Senate’s strict rules to stay in the final version of the bill.

Polls reveal time-and-time again that the large majority of Americans do not believe that taxpayer dollars should pay for elective abortion. Additionally, people generally agree that the declining number of abortions performed in the United States of America is a positive improvement. We want to continue that trajectory.

History has proven that when the government pays for abortion, the number of abortions increase. Consider the Hyde Amendment. This popular, bipartisan policy, originally passed in 1976, put a halt on the approximately 300,000 abortions annually that were paid for by tax dollars. A recent study showed that since being enacted the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million lives, making it arguably the single most effective pro-life policy since 1973.

It is common sense that the government should not create financial incentives like tax credits for abortion under the guise of “healthcare,” because as Ronald Reagan used to say, “If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.”

When former President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill created a special tax credit to purchase new energy efficient storm doors, millions of Americans became influenced and motivated to take advantage of the “free money” to purchase such doors. Should abortion get this same treatment on the taxpayer’s dime, thereby potentially increasing the number of innocent babies brutally killed in abortion?

The last thing our country needs is a new government program that forces American taxpayers to pay for other people’s abortions, especially given that President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpA better economic policy Scarborough: Trump learning that ‘Washington always wins’ GOP rep: Dems have done nothing to fix ObamaCare MORE ran and won partly on his campaign commitment to “(m)aking the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”

The final version of the American Healthcare Act must include language to prohibit direct subsidies or tax-preferential treatment for elective abortion services or coverage, whether in healthcare tax credits, subsidies or any other healthcare programs. It is also critical that these pro-life protections survive challenge under the Senate’s Byrd Rule, which strictly limits policy-making provisions on a budget bill. If such abortion funding restrictions are stripped out of the bill in the Senate by a Byrd Rule point of order, our organizations would have to strongly oppose the entire bill because it would expand abortion, even though it removes specific funds from Planned Parenthood for one year.

A pledge of a presidential Executive Order attempting to address the legislative shortfalls on stopping taxpayer funding of abortion would not be sufficient. Executive Orders can be blocked by courts or overturned by future presidents. Recall the 11th hour agreement in March 2010 between Rep. Bart Stupak and former President Obama, which got hold-out pro-life Democrats to vote for ObamaCare in exchange for an Executive Order to supposedly apply the Hyde Amendment to the plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.

Obama’s then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel later stated in a media interview that they knew this Executive Order wasn’t worth the weight of the piece of paper it was on. Until that point, former Rep. Stupak had a 100 percent pro-life record. That one vote changed everything. He is no longer in office and he has not spoken again at the March for Life.

But, most importantly, he (alongside many others), enabled what many consider to be largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade and one of our country’s largest and most ineffective government programs of all time.

Votes matter. Votes can save lives. If a truly pro-life solution cannot be included in the final version of the American Healthcare Act, then Congress will need to do the right thing and go back to the drawing board.