The End of Common Ground

A good hearted and extremely well-connected Catholic came up to me at a Catholic event this week in Washington D.C. and said, “Now don’t you see the value of engagement? At the Kennedy funeral, Cardinal O’Malley directly lobbied the president to keep abortion out of the health care bill and look what happened.” This good-hearted Republican, who has been at the very center of the common-ground talks with the White House, had apparently missed the headlines only twenty-four hours earlier.

Even before the ink was dry on the Stupak Amendment, which limits abortion coverage in the new healthcare bill, the New York Times reported that the president, “Seeks Revision of Plan’s Abortion Limits.” President Obama told the Times, “There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo [on abortion].” He said, “We’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortion.” The status quo he refers to is the Hyde Amendment. “On the other hand,” the president continued, “we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices.” That is the talking point of the abortion lobby, one they hope will unravel Stupak and give America the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

The charge by the abortion lobby and their friend in the White House is that the Stupak Amendment goes far beyond the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funding of abortion). In their telling, Stupak says not only that women in the proposed federal health exchange may not use federal dollars for abortion coverage, they may not even use their own money to buy abortion riders. They claim, with the president’s apparent agreement, that this would restrict access to abortion for American women – that it is, in reality, a “middle-class abortion ban.”

For the sake of argument, let’s say they are right – that the Stupak Amendment disallows women from using their own money to buy abortion insurance. There is still nothing preventing them from marching into an abortuary and slapping down a wad of cash. That is mostly what happens today anyway. Insurers carry plans with abortion coverage, but most employers choose not to offer it, and most people have insurance through their employers. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress in April that most “private plans do not cover abortion services except in limited instances.” What the pro-choice groups and president Obama are really asking for is a massive expansion of abortion coverage beyond the status quo – for coverage of all elective abortions and for that expanded coverage to be subsidized by federal dollars.

That’s if you concede their position for the sake of argument. But, in fact, they are wrong. The Stupak Amendment does allow women to buy insurance riders for elective abortions. Don’t take Stupak’s word for it. Take a look at, which is run by the left-wing St. Petersburg Times. They say the assertion that Stupak does not allow women to use their own money for abortion insurance is flatly “false.” According to, “The amendment says that individuals buying insurance on the exchange may still purchase coverage that includes abortions as long as no federal money is used.” also dispels the pro-abortion Obama myth that the Stupak Amendment would affect almost every woman in America. Politifact points out that Stupak only covers the virtual marketplace for insurance coverage that is created by the bill and that this virtual marketplace only covers the self-employed and small business owners. They point out that this virtual marketplace “would serve at most a small fraction of Americans.”

The day after the Stupak Amendment passed, Planned Parenthood announced that they would go to their ally in the White House to get the abortion language fixed. After all, Obama promised during the ’08 campaign that he would put “reproductive health care” at the “center of health care reform.” The very next day Obama began parroting the now demonstrably false talking points of the abortion industry.

The abortion lobby certainly knows who their friends and opponents are. Even now, they are demanding that the Catholic Church lose its non-profit status because its role in promoting the Stupak Amendment. Obama has repeatedly shown that he is not really interested in common ground on abortion. Ironically, no issue is more “common-ground” than federal funding of abortion: polls and public policy surveys show that most Americans, even pro-choice Americans, oppose federal funding of abortion. That’s why the Stupak amendment passed with wide bi-partisan support, garnering even more votes than the final bill received.

Yet Obama-of-the-common-ground opposes Stupak. And so I ask: At long last, may we call a halt to the common-ground conversation that gullible Catholics believe they can have with the Obama Administration about abortion? Can we finally call a halt to the wishful thinking of those in the Vatican who are undermining the American pro-life movement by giving aid and comfort to Obama’s aggressive abortion policy?

Barack Obama and the pro-abortion Democrats are not seeking common ground. They do not want compromise . . . except from us. What they want is to win. For them “common ground,” compromise, and dialogue are merely strategies of war. Sad to say, dialogue is cat-nip for gullible Catholics – both here and in Rome.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.