The pro-choice movement is going bonkers today because President Obama “caved” in to anti-choice legislators in order to secure their votes in favor of the healthcare reform bill.   

Gimme a break! 

By now, everyone knows how hard Obama had to work to get the votes necessary to pass this landmark legislation.  The day of the vote, he will still short of a majority.  Meanwhile, there were five or six anti-choice Democrats who wanted to support the bill but couldn’t commit because they were concerned that it would allow federal dollars to pay for abortions.  

For decades, the “Hyde Amendment” has been the law of the land.  No federal Medicaid dollars are allowed to be used for abortions unless the woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.  The rape and incest exception was added in the early 1980’s after a very hard fought battle. 

Despite the accusations of Republicans, there was no way taxpayer’s dollars were going to be used to fund abortions if the health care bill became law.  Obama was clear on this point from the beginning.

Still, despite his assurances, there were some Members of Congress, prompted by the National Right to Life Committee, who were not convinced and they threatened to vote against the bill without an assurance that no abortions would be funded under the new insurance plans. 

Now, Obama could have looked at them in the eye and told them to take a hike, but if he had done that the entire bill might have gone down.  So, he agreed to sign an Executive Order clarifying what he had been saying all along – that no dollars would be used for abortions.  That was an easy one for him and it mollified those anti-choice Democrats who ultimately voted for the bill.  And, tomorrow or Wednesday, that bill will become law. 

I don’t like the Hyde Amendment.  Abortion is mainstream medicine and women on Medicaid – poor women – should be able to terminate a pregnancy with federal dollars.  But the bottom line is we just don’t have the votes to reverse this long-standing prohibition.  And we’re not going to have the votes for many years to come.

Obama did the right thing.  He simply reaffirmed current law and, in doing so, picked up some valuable votes. 

The pro-choice groups should stop whining, stop blaming the President and start working on picking up the votes necessary to reverse the Hyde Amendment.