FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

Has abortion role been overblown in U.S. healthcare debate?

A new poll by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that concern about federal funding for abortion is very low on the list of factors driving opposition to President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul America's healthcare system.

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The results of the poll, released on Thursday, show that just 3 percent of healthcare opponents cited abortion funding as their main reason for opposing congressional healthcare proposals.

The biggest reasons, cited by 27 percent of respondents to an open-ended question about their opposition, were that the overhaul would be too expensive and lead to higher deficits and taxes. Another 27 percent said they did not want government involvement in healthcare.

The nationwide poll of more than 1,000 Americans was conducted from Nov. 12 to 15.

The poll's publication comes as the U.S. Senate prepares to begin debate on its version of a healthcare bill that does not include language approved earlier this month by the House that would strengthen the existing prohibition on using federal funds for abortion.

Pilgrims snub H1N1 flu and flock to Saudi Arabia

haj-flu (Photo: Palestinian pilgrim gets vaccinated in Gaza Strip, 6 Nov 2009/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Standing in the middle of a long queue at Jeddah airport, Mahdi Sharif is one of millions of Muslims waiting to enter Saudi Arabia to start the annual haj pilgrimage despite a global outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus.

Little fazed by the spread of the virus, Sharif, who has been waiting for two years to be selected from a raffle of 5,000 Kurdish Iraqis to visit Mecca, wears a protection mask but never thought for a second of delaying his pilgrimage.

“This year I was chosen so I came, I could not say no. The happiness of being chosen is stronger than fear (of illness),” said Sharif in a muffled voice through his medical mask.

Obama accuses some healthcare critics of “bearing false witness”

U.S. President Barack Obama enlisted the “Religious Left” on Wednesday to help galvanise public support for his faltering drive for healthcare reform, using the language of faith as he accused some of the critics of his biggest domestic project of “bearing false witness.”

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Obama made a brief pitch to a “call in” organised by various liberal and progressive faith groups called “40 minutes for Health Reform.” It is part of  a campaign launched last week to counteract a movement to stop “Obamacare” that has been driven in part by conservative Christian activists.

“There has been a lot misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Obama said.

Religious Right TV ad links “Obamacare,” abortion

The Family Research Council, a leading activist group among America’s “Religious Right,” has launched a new TV ad in five key states that claims President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan will lead to publicly funded abortions — a charge disputed by the president’s allies and abortion rights groups.

You can see the new video, Life and Death, below.

FRC President Tony Perkins told reporters in a telephone conference that the ads will run on cable news programs in Arkansas, Nebraska, Louisiana, Alaska and Pennsylvania — five states that have significant numbers of social conservatives but are represented by more moderate lawmakers who can be swayed.

The announcement came just ahead of a “phone in” featuring liberal and left-leaning faith leaders — or the Religious Left – and Obama seeking to galvanize support for the president’s bid to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Liberal U.S. religious groups launch “40 Days of Health Reform”

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Liberal U.S. religious groups launched “40 Days of Health Reform” on Monday.

You can see our coverage here and a video of their nationwide TV spot below.

The campaign aims to energize efforts by President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party to overhaul America’s healthcare system.

(PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting about healthcare at the Kroger Supermarket in Bristol, Virginia July 29, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing)