WASHINGTON -- The massive healthcare legislation moving through Congress includes directions for lots of new changes, but on one important issue it is silent.
Pro-life lawmakers fear healthcare reform will open the floodgates on abortion.
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After nearly 30 years in Congress, as co-chair of the pro-life caucus for most of them, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., has found himself at the middle of many abortion battles.
But he calls this fight "the big one."
"Bottom line, there will be millions more abortions than there would otherwise have been," Smith said.
The 1,000-page house healthcare bill is silent on abortion. Instead, the legislation establishes a new health benefits committee that will set minimum benefit standards. Abortion opponents say that leaves the door wide open.
President Obama has said reproductive care is essential and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that includes access to abortion.
"Even if the administration has a change of heart and decides to rule out requiring coverage of abortion, the courts will step in and do so," Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., said. "History illustrates that."
Even without an advisory committee, when legislation has been silent on abortion in the past, federal dollars have been used to fund abortions.
If the government mandates insurance companies to cover it, critics say thousands of new abortion clinics will pop up across the nation. State restrictions like parental notification will be null and void and doctors will be forced to perform the procedures against their conscience.
"The taking of innocent life is not health care," Rep. Joe Fleming, R-La., said.
In a rare scene on Capitol Hill, pro-life lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are publicly coming together to oppose the legislation.
"No one should be forced to have an abortion and no one should be forced to participate in an abortion in violation of their religious or ethical beliefs," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said.
According to a recent poll, this group of lawmakers are in line with most Americans.
A Gallup poll released in May revealed 51 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life.
"Let's just cut to the chase -- this issue along with a lot of others is why this healthcare legislation is in trouble," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., said.
On such an important bill, pro-life representatives say abortion must be addressed. They have already drafted airtight amendments to prevent what they call abortions on demand, arguing the alternative is unconscionable.
"Bottom line: what this bill does is force every tax payer, every premium payer to fund every abortion in America," New Jersey Rep. Smith said.