Sometimes he who takes the bait also gets the hook. That could happen to First District Congressman Steve Driehaus.
Representative Driehaus signed off on the health care bill when President Obama issued an executive order that purported to prohibit the federal funding of abortions. Whether the executive order did so is a matter of intense debate. If it did not, Driehaus has armed his challenger, Republican Steve Chabot, with a campaign issue potentially more decisive than Driehaus’s vote for Obamacare generally.
Both Driehaus and Steve Chabot are avowedly pro-life. Both are Catholics who attended Catholic high schools, Driehaus Elder and Chabot LaSalle. The First Congressional District remains heavily Catholic, although gerrymandering and changing demographics have whittled down that predominance.
While the polls show the country somewhat evenly divided on the pro-life, pro-choice issue, that’s not so with respect to abortion funding. Ohio Right to Life’s polls show that a surprising 72% of Ohioans oppose taxpayer funding of elective abortions. That’s what makes the question whether Obamacare funds abortions so critical in this year’s First District race.
Having been bounced from office by Driehaus in the 2008 Democrat landslide, Chabot had no vote on the health care bill. No one doubts, though, how the conservative Republican would have voted.
Driehaus, on the other hand, held out, along with Congressman Stupak and other pro-life House members, until the 11th hour, when President Obama rode to their rescue with an executive order that purportedly nullified any abortion funding in the health care bill. As explained in Driehaus’s website:
“I worked with my Congressional colleagues and the Administration to ensure that no federal funding will be used for abortion. The President’s executive order clarifies existing law and ensures that federal subsidies will not pay for abortion services.”
The Congressman’s website statement presents two critical issues: Did the health care bill provide for abortion funding and, if so, did the President’s executive order negate that? One relevant view is what the candidates’ own bishops have to say about that. The General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a scholarly legal analysis concluded that:
• The health care bill appropriates $9.5 billion for services at Community Health Centers that may be required to be used for elective abortions.
• The bill also provides tax credits for, and therefore subsidizes, health care plans covering elective abortions.
• Because an executive order cannot amend or contradict Congressional legislation, the President did not have the power to prevent the federal funding of abortions.
With his fingers controlling the temperature knob as this campaign progresses, Chabot will have the opportunity to ratchet up the heat on Driehaus’s Congressional seat. Chabot can do so by advising a public overwhelmingly opposed to taxpayer funding of abortions that according to the candidates’ own bishops that’s precisely what Driehaus voted for when he took the President’s bait, hook, line and sinker.
Edmund Adams is a retired attorney living in Columbia-Tusculum.