Anti-Abortion Lobby Pushes for Quick Approval of Graham-Cassidy

The promise Republicans are trying to keep in the Graham-Cassidy bill goes beyond repealing Obamacare. They’ve also promised anti-abortion activists whatever they want. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Among opponents of the Graham-Cassidy health-care legislation, there is a general sense of incredulity that so many Republicans are willing to back a bill this poorly thought-out, with so many impossible-to-entirely-predict risks. The gun at their heads is generally assumed to be the potential fury of the GOP’s conservative base if Republicans break their promise to repeal Obamacare.

But there’s another thing pushing them toward the abyss: One of the most powerful factions in the GOP and the conservative movement, the anti-abortion lobby, is backing Graham-Cassidy to the hilt. That’s because, like every other GOP repeal-and-replace bill, it temporarily “defunds” Planned Parenthood and aims to prevent use of federal insurance-purchasing tax subsidies for policies that include abortion coverage. Here’s an excerpt from a joint statement by the Family Research Council and the Susan B. Anthony List:

The Graham-Cassidy legislation would reapply to federal health care law the principle contained in the Hyde Amendment that abortion is not health care and should not be subsidized. It redirects taxpayer funding away from abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood and provides better state-based health insurance solutions for families than Obamacare.

So like all the other GOP bills this year, Graham-Cassidy redeems the promise to give the RTLers a filibuster-proof vehicle for their attacks on Planned Parenthood and private, voluntary health insurance providing abortion coverage.

But these activists want to make it abundantly clear that if they don’t get what they want in this legislation, they aren’t going away:

Should robust efforts to enact the Graham-Cassidy legislation though the FY2017 Reconciliation bill run out of time, then the fight to redirect funds from Planned Parenthood must move immediately to the FY2018 Tax Reconciliation bill.

In other words, they are threatening to muck up an already complex tax/budget measure — of much greater importance to GOP members of Congress and their donors than any mere health-care bill — with their demands. In doing so, they may be sending a dual message to congressional Republicans: Pass Graham-Cassidy, damn it, but don’t you dare take out OUR provisions to get those baby-killing enthusiasts Collins and Murkowski onboard! If you do, we’ll take your precious tax cuts hostage.

So far, nobody in the Senate GOP leadership is talking publicly about selling out the RTL folk as a sweetener for Collins and Murkowski, who are indeed the only two pro-choice Republicans left in the Senate. But if bribes don’t work, it might come up. And the very palpable sense among anti-abortion activists that they’ve been played for suckers by cynical Republican pols for decades could finally boil over into rage.

Anti-Abortion Lobby Pushes Quick Approval of Graham-Cassidy