WASHINTON —Vice President Mike Pence is reaching out to the pro-life community to assure them the Trump administration’s push to repeal and replace Obamacare will help their cause.
Pence held what his office is describing as a “listening session” with several pro-life leaders late Thursday. He asked them for their suggestions on how to improve health care in America.
"The conversation focused on ensuring that the sanctity of life is respected and included in efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare," said a statement from the vice president's office.
— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 10, 2017
But one of the groups attending the Pence listening session came away worried about several ways it fears the new plan will still be too similar to Obamacare.
"Although the bill does pull the plug on the majority of Planned Parenthood's funding, there are definite land mines with regard to the abortion subsidies and using refundable tax credits and health savings accounts," Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said after the meeting.
"There's been some speculation that the administration might try to fix any abortion problems with an executive order. I can say without hesitation that such an offer is a non-starter," Perkins stated. "For those that may need a refresher on the history of how Obamacare became law, it was an executive order promised to pro-life Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak. Pro-life Democrats fell for that stunt seven years ago when the whole bill hung in the balance, and it resulted in the greatest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion since 1973."
Perkins explained, "As a movement, we're thrilled with the Trump administration's commitment to the unborn. But these problems have to be addressed up front before any measure becomes law, or we will be unequivocally opposed." (Read Perkins' full statement here.)
Other groups, though, were more upbeat.
A representative from Liberty Counsel, a legal group defending religious freedom rights, said the meeting lasted more than an hour.
“We are so grateful to have an administration in Washington that genuinely wants to protect the unborn and is working to end Obamacare’s unconscionable abortion mandates,” said Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s vice president of Legal Affairs.
Mihet also said, “The dark days of forcing people of faith to fund or support abortion against their conscience will soon be relegated to the dustbin of history.”
The statement from Pence’s office added, “Vice President Pence reiterated his and President Trump’s strong commitment to the sanctity of life.”
Pence also summed up for the pro-life leaders at the meeting “the Administration’s overall strategy for repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
An End to Taxpayer Funding of Abortion
A representative from Students for Life of America told CBN News after the off-the-record meeting, "We're encouraged by the vice president's commitment to protecting life and are optimistic that we will pass healthcare reform that defunds Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business, and does not provide for direct funding of abortion by the American taxpayers.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is one of the highest priorities of abortion opponents in the U.S. The organization receives more than $500 million of taxpayer support every year, even as it performs about a third of the nation’s abortions, some 324,000 annually.
A statement from Liberty Counsel added, “Liberty Counsel and other pro-life leaders provided Vice President Pence with suggestions for reversing the incalculable damage inflicted by Obamacare on the sanctity of life and on people of faith who were forced to fund or support abortion against their conscience.”
Pence a Key Pro-Life Leader
Trump’s pick of Pence as his vice presidential running mate was one of his main actions that encouraged pro-life support before the election and allayed worries about how serious he was in opposing abortion.
Anti-abortion forces considered Pence one of their staunchest allies in Congress when he was a lawmaker and member of the congressional leadership. He further burnished that reputation as a fighter against abortion during his years as Indiana's governor.
This year, he became the highest-ranking White House official ever to address the March for Life when he appeared at the pre-March rally Jan. 27.
Trump had described himself as pro-choice in earlier years, but had a change of heart and then spoke often and enthusiastically of his opposition to abortion during the 2016 presidential campaign.
A highlight of the presidential debates was when he strongly criticized Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s support for abortion and graphically described what the late-term abortion procedure does to snuff out the life of a child who is fully formed in the womb.
Trump also surprised many who practice old-style politics when he flat out stated he would pick pro-life nominees to fill any U.S. Supreme Court vacancies.