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The Point Washington Update - September 2014

In this issue:


Article #1

Excerpted from "GAO: Taxpayer funds likely paying for abortion under Obamacare," World magazine, September 18, 2014, - The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to separately itemize and charge for abortion coverage, a compromise designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortions. The compromise drew support from pro-life Democrats in 2010, and was crucial to overcoming Republican opposition.

Federal law under the Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the life of the mother. President Barack Obama promised in March 2010 that the Affordable Care Act policies would adhere to the Hyde Amendment.

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed taxpayer funding is likely subsidizing elective abortions. The report evaluated the 27 states and Washington, D.C., that do not restrict elective abortion coverage in their insurance markets. It found that 1,036 of the 2,098 subsidized plans in those states cover elective abortions. The 18 evaluated insurers offered a quarter of those policies. Although the GAO report didn’t specify that taxpayer money funded abortions under Obamacare, it raised serious concerns.

“Americans throughout the country have raised serious concerns that they find it nearly impossible to determine whether the plan they purchase finances the killing of unborn children—there is little or no transparency—hence the request by several members of Congress including [House Speaker John] Boehner that GAO investigate,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, who also co-chairs the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

“Now we know that at least 1,036 plans cover abortion, and the so-called ‘surcharge’ for abortion coverage is simply an accounting gimmick,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America.

The Health and Human Services Department acknowledged in a written response that “additional clarification may be needed” regarding the healthcare law’s abortion coverage.

In response, pro-lifers have called for the passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” authored by Smith. The House of Representatives passed the bill in January, but it met opposition in the Senate.


Commentary #1

Mary HarnedMary Harned, Staff Counsel, Americans United for Life (AUL): (from her NRO commentary): “Given the Affordable Care Act's extensive list of shortcomings and controversies, the GAO report may elicit little more than a yawn from the media. Yet, the report is stunning in that it documents how the Obama administration has abandoned and even undermined the very promises that enabled the healthcare legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When objections to taxpayer funding for abortion or abortion coverage nearly brought down the bill, it took an eleventh hour ‘compromise’ — statutory language provided by Senator Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and a promised executive order — to save the ACA. Now, over four years later, the GAO report confirms that the abortion deal was effectively meaningless.

“The language in the law is unambiguous — ‘separate payments’ are required. Yet, insurance issuers are not collecting separate payments. In fact, the Obama administration is telling issuers that they do not need to collect two checks.

“States that do not require these ‘segregation plans’ cannot know if and how much taxpayer funding is being used to pay for abortions. Insurance issuers who are not collecting separate payments or even itemizing abortion premiums are not likely to be keeping abortions premiums separate from federal funds.

“So, abortions are being paid for out of federally subsidized premiums. That is taxpayer funding for abortion.”

Resources
GAO report. (To see which plans cover abortion, click on "Abortion Services Interactive Map.")


Article #2

Excerpted from "If Policy Makers Cared about Data, They’d Care about Freedom of Religion or Belief," the Weekly Number blog, September 15, 2014 - The past decade has seen the largest social science effort to collect and analyze data on international religious demography. This body of research points to one thing – religion is growing and will continue to grow globally, with about 9-in-10 people projected to be affiliated with religion in 2030 compared with 8-in-10 in 1970. This growth is projected to occur despite trends toward disaffiliation in the global north, where population growth is stagnating.

Studies show that there has been a dramatic rise in the level of religious restrictions and hostilities. The data point to a global religious freedom crisis that will become even more acute as the world becomes more religious and as global mobility mixes people and their beliefs at an unprecedented rate.

The data on religious freedom provide more than just information – they provide knowledge. Specifically, analysis of the data reveal two very important empirical relationships:

  • The combined effects of government and social restrictions on religious freedom lead to violent religious persecution and conflict.
  • The respect of freedom of religion or belief leads to peace and prosperity.

As the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, freedom of religion or belief may be an unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth, according to this new study.


Commentary #2

Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “Our Judeo-Christian heritage has provided for religious freedom, since we know that God has bestowed on all people freedom of choice and that true belief cannot be coerced. The rise of radical Muslim terrorist groups such as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) shows what happens in the absence of those fundamental understandings. A prayer request I recently received illustrates the tragedies that ensue:

A friend just got a text message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer. He is part of a mission and ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents.

The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families - even if it means their own deaths. He is very afraid, has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred.

Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be his voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, he is begging prayers for his courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if he is called to do so.

She asked me to ask everyone we know to please pray for them. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance.”

Resources
Freedom2Care - CMDA's religious freedom headquarters

Action
Pray for our brethren—and especially the children—under siege by the terrorists, that they may both remain faithful to Christ and also escape their persecutors. Pray for the political and military defeat of the persecutors and for religious freedom in these countries. Pray against the spiritual forces of darkness and the propaganda that is winning converts to the cause of terror and for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Use our easy, pre-written forms at our Freedom2Care legislative action website to contact your legislators on any of the following domestic religious freedom bills:

  1. Protect conscience freedom in healthcare: HR 940
    Preserve patient choice and protect pro-life professionals from discrimination for moral and ethical views.
  2. Uphold religious freedom, 1st Amendment - S.1808
    Marriage and Religious Freedom Act - S.1808 - prohibits discrimination because of moral beliefs regarding marriage and sex.
  3. Protect faith-based adoption agencies from discrimination - S 2706
    Keep states from cutting off faith-based adoption agencies that assist couples with adoptions according to faith standards.

Article #3

Excerpted from "Protect giving: A chance for real bipartisanship," commentary by Vikki Spruill in The Hill, September 15, 2014 - Foundations and charities face a pivotal moment. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) with a bipartisan vote of 277 to 130. Now it needs to pass the Senate. It will give individuals and private foundations the certainty that allows for more charitable giving.

The America Gives More Act makes permanent three important provisions that have been part of the “extenders package” for a number of years. Though they are proven to increase giving and have broad bipartisan support, it’s become the norm for Congress to allow these provisions to expire, then retroactively reinstate them. This inconsistency from Congress leaves donors uncertain of how much they can contribute.

The bill addresses this uncertainty in three key areas:

  • Gifts from IRA distributions (referred to as the “IRA charitable rollover”) where generous donors are directing their mandatory distributions directly to charity.
  • Gifts of property, specifically conservation easements, which are complicated transactions that can take more than a year to plan and execute.
  • Gifts of food inventory, which are often perishable and so demand quick action.

The strong bipartisan alignment around this bill is rare these days in Washington. The vote in the House showed that both Democrats and Republicans understand the importance of supporting charitable giving. Still, this uncommon consensus is at risk of being undermined by Washington gridlock.


Commentary #3

Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “In dozens of visits focused on this topic with Congressional leaders and their staff, I have been impressed with a bipartisan, general commitment to charitable giving. Still, the temptation for our deficit-spending Government to tap into new revenue sources is great, and the potential remains for Congress to unwittingly trim giving by fiddling with charity incentives and protections in the tax code.

“Why would Congress take steps that would make fewer Americans able to deduct charitable gifts, or subject givers to stingier limits on how much they give? Don't lawmakers realize that charities provide billions in social services—such as through faith-based medical and dental clinics that care for needy patients—that Government would otherwise have to fund?

“Government always seeks more money, due to the sheer pull of the power derived from money. Many politicians also redistribute our tax dollars to their constituents and pet projects as a means of retaining political power. Years of undisciplined spending now threaten Government's power and politicians' futures, so they are turning to previously sacred sources such as charity for more tax revenue.

“When I visit Members of Congress to persuade them to preserve our charitable gift deductions, I make the following simple points:

  1. Government should not tax individuals for giving their money away to help others.
  2. Charities can provide services much more efficiently and effectively than Government bureaucracies and save billions that the Government would otherwise have to fund.
  3. Any cuts to charitable giving will ultimately penalize the needy individuals served by charities.”

Action
Use our Freedom2Care easy form to let your legislators know that Government should not tax us for money we give away to help others, and that you want your charitable gifts to remain tax-deductible.

Resources
Fact sheet on charitable giving
Itemized Deductions State-by-State - Pew Charitable Trusts

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