Before his 2017 realization that the ACA was helping constituents, Smith was a reliable anti-ACA vote. He railed against the bill, claiming: “there is no doubt whatsoever that senior citizens and disabled persons will lose certain health benefits they now enjoy.” He said Medicaid expansion was “…threatening the participation of physicians in the program” and “also further endangers already strained state budgets.” He viewed the ACA as “government-controlled, rationed healthcare,” that would result in “Medicare cuts.” In total, his opinion on the ACA was that “considered in its entirety, Obamacare is a crippling blow to both healthcare in America and our economy.”
Clearly Smith did not want the ACA to become law, and he voted against the bill.
Smith is also a fervent anti-abortionist, and has linked the ACA to increased abortions many times. He has repeatedly claimed, (falsely,) that the ACA massively funds abortions, and has sponsored bills to expand the Hyde Amendment barring federal funding for abortion. Smith’s views on the ACA and abortion are best summarized in his own words from the House floor in March, 2011: “Unborn children are society’s youngest and most vulnerable patients. Obamacare should do them no harm. Tragically, it does the worst harm of all. It kills them.”
This is a standard refrain of Smith’s, and it is not true. Hyde Amendment rules apply to the ACA, just as they do to other government spending. However, we need not hire accountants to determine if Hyde is in place and functioning, we need only look to our own Mr. Smith.
Abortion has been the single most animating principle of Smith’s career. There is no other issue on which Smith acts more zealously. If the ACA truly “killed” the unborn, and Smith had an opportunity in 2017 to repeal the ACA thereby ending the “mass murder,” why didn’t he take it?
In his speech on why he was voting against repeal, Smith said “…Mr. Speaker, I remain deeply concerned—and will vote no today—largely because the pending bill cuts Medicaid funding…rolls back Medicaid expansion, cancels essential health benefits such as maternity and newborn care, hospitalization, pediatric services, and mental health and substance use treatment, and includes ‘‘per capita caps’’—all of which will likely hurt disabled persons, the elderly and the working poor.”
This is a far different tune than the one Smith sang when the ACA was passed. With repeal, wouldn’t Medicaid recipients, seniors, and the disabled just be returning to the exact same status Smith so emphatically supported before the ACA? How can preserving the law, a “serious blow to healthcare,” justify the ACA’s supposed killing of the unborn?
Given his decades of proclamations on abortion and his numerous claims that the ACA contributed to “murder,” repealing the ACA should have been no less than a religious obligation for Smith. But he voted no, because Smith’s claims about the ACA and abortion, both as separate and overlapping issues, are false. And he knows it.
I do not question the sincerity of Smith’s feelings on abortion. Nor do I question anyone who opposes abortion as far as it affects their own lives. And voting against his party on the ACA repeal was the right thing to do. But Smith’s arguments against the ACA’s passage, his linking of the ACA and abortion, and his vote against the ACA repeal each undermine the other’s logic. All of these things cannot be true.
Smith was not truthful when he discussed the ACA before it became law, and he has not told the truth about the ACA and abortion since. His use of abortion to whip up anti-ACA sentiment helped drive Republicans to a cliff where they almost removed healthcare from 23 million vulnerable Americans. Leadership requires speaking about sensitive and complicated issues in accurate terms so we may find solutions together. Chris Smith failed at this task.