The Ellsworth dodge fails to fool pro-life ObamaCare critics

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) will get a vote on his amendment that ostensibly blocks federal funds from directly funding abortion services, while Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has been denied a vote on his.  Ellsworth has gotten token opposition from Planned Parenthood over his amendment, which would supposedly force people to pay for abortion coverage with their own funds — but still allows the sale of abortion coverage through government-run exchanges, which apply subsidies for overall coverage.  Stupak and pro-life forces see the Ellsworth amendment as a dodge that offers no barrier to federally-funded abortions at all:

Eighth District U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., might have expected that his amendment to the health care reform bill, which he says will ensure no federal funds are used to provide elective abortions, would be opposed by Planned Parenthood.

The abortion rights group weighed in with a statement of opposition on Tuesday.

But the Ellsworth amendment, which House leaders have said they may incorporate into the bill, also has sparked a furious backlash among national, state and local anti-abortion groups who typically support Ellsworth.

Pitted against the Ellsworth amendment are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life Committee, Indiana Right to Life and Vanderburgh County Right to Life.

Why has Ellsworth generated so much opposition?  His amendment doesn’t address the core problem of the bill.  The language contained in Section 221, on page 110 of the 1990-page behemoth, which states:

Nothing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage of services described in paragraph (4)(A).

Paragraph (4)(A) reads:

(A) ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS PROHIBITED.—The services described in this subparagraph are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is not permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.

In other words, it’s a placemarker for the Hyde Amendment.  If the Hyde Amendment gets repealed, then the public option will fund abortions.  Even without it, the exchanges can offer abortion coverage as long as it doesn’t involve the direct payment of services by the federal government.  The exchanges would subsidize the abortion coverage by either forcing private insurers to offer it as part of their comprehensive plans or in riders, either of which would be subsidized for families at 400% of the poverty line or below — with federal dollars.

Stupak’s amendment strikes this language and clearly forbids the use of federal monies to support abortion or abortion coverage.  Ellsworth’s plays a shell game, a 3-card Monty that hides the subsidies through misdirection.  Pelosi allowed Ellsworth a vote because Ellsworth’s amendment doesn’t impact the bill’s ability to fund abortion coverage — but gives Pelosi enough political cover to strip away a few nominally pro-life Democrats to vote for her bill.

This may explain why the Democrats can’t get to 218.  This, combined with the unemployment numbers and the utter failure of Porkulus, undoubtedly has moderate Democrats very skittish about voting for another massive and costly government program.