WASHINGTON --Hoping to take advantage of a month-long August recess when legislators will be in their home states, a leading pro-family group released a hard-hitting television ad Tuesday that argues the current health care bills will lead to the rationing of benefits and the taxpayer funding of abortion.
Family Research Council Action plans to air the ad in five states where key senators reside: Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana and Nebraska. The 30-second ad -- released during a webcast that warned pro-life laws are under attack -- features an elderly couple sitting at the table discussing a government letter the husband just opened. Visibly upset, he says, "They won't pay for my surgery. What are we going to do?"
He continues, "And to think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run health care plan and spending tax dollars on abortion. They won't pay for my surgery, but we're forced to pay for abortions."
With a number to the capitol switchboard appearing on the screen, a female narrator then asks viewers to call their senators and to "stop the government takeover of health care."
In a statement explaining the ad, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins pointed to government-run plans in England and Canada and said that in a "world of health care rationing, the elderly, the handicapped and the frail" will suffer most when health care is delayed or denied.
Pro-family and pro-life groups have been sounding the alarm for weeks about the lack of pro-life protections in the current House and Senate bills, warning that if abortion is not specifically excluded, it will be covered, and by extension taxpayers will be forced to pay for it.
They point to the Medicaid controversy in the 1970s to support their claim. Abortion was not mentioned in any Medicaid legislation, so when the Supreme Court legalized it, it was covered. That changed only in the mid-1970s when Congress passed an amendment (the Hyde Amendment) to prohibit Medicaid coverage of abortion.
A group of 19 pro-life Democrats told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in June that they won't support any bill unless it specifically excludes abortion coverage.
Pro-lifers, though, have heard little from Democratic leaders to ease their concerns.
Asked by CNN's John King on Sunday's "State of the Union" if abortion should be covered under a public option health care plan, Pelosi -- who supports federally funding abortion -- didn't give a direct answer.
"That's not, that's not the issue," she said.
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from New York and chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, has been more forthright.
"The starting point for Rep. Slaughter on the healthcare debate was protecting abortion rights," her spokesman, Vincent Morris, told the Los Angeles Times.
President Obama -- while largely avoiding the subject lately -- was more direct when he was a candidate and told Planned Parenthood during a 2007 speech that abortion coverage is "at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose." He also said that "insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care."
During Tuesday's FRC Action webcast, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., was asked whether the current bills in Congress would force taxpayers to fund abortion.
"Unfortunately, as it stands today, that is the case," Brownback, who is pro-life said, before adding, "If you're to have this thing taken over and a benefits board set up by the federal government, you've got to have this clearly stated that [abortion] will not be included."
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the health care plan's threat to the unborn cannot be overstated. A 2008 Zogby poll showed that 71 percent of U.S. adults oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
"The pro-abortion groups have been waiting for this chance for a long time," Johnson said on the webcast. "When Barack Obama appeared in 2007 before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, he pledged that abortion would be at the heart of his plan. These bills -- the Kennedy bill and the House bill, H.R. 3200 -- would fulfill that pledge. If he was able to enact these in their current form, it would be the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe vs. Wade."
Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, said he's concerned not only about the abortion aspects of the bill, but the cost, too.
"At the time that Medicare was passed in 1965, there was an estimate that by 1990, Medicare would cost roughly $10 billion per year," he said. "By 1990, Medicare actually cost seven times that per year. The one unbroken truth of federal bureaucracy and federal government programs is that the estimates by bureaucrats are always low and they're always wrong."
Pence added, "The reality is we need health care reform, and Republicans and Democrats are now coming together in a new bipartisan majority to say no to a government-run insurance plan."