From NBC's Ali Weinberg and Bobby Cervantes
At the conservative Family Research Council's Value Voters Summit taking place here in DC, featured speakers today criticized the Democratic health-care-reform proposals moving through Congress, saying that they would lead to the government funding of abortion.
Another raised the specter that the reform could result in the so-called "death panels," which independent fact-checkers say isn't true.
Receiving a standing ovation, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) said, "Fighting for freedom means fight for the born and unborn. We must stand for sanctity of human life without apology," adding: "The time has come to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood of Amercia."
Former Arkansas Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warned against what he called the "slippery slope" of government intervention. "We have been on a slippery slope since 1973, since we decided it was perfectly okay to terminate the life of a healthy unborn child."
Likening the bills' abortion provisions to those on end-of-life counseling, Huckabee said, "If the government can tell us who can be born, that same government can tell us when to die."
Abortion has become a contentious issue in the debate over health care. Fact-checkers agree that the health legislation moving through Congress WOULDN'T use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion. But Factcheck.org says "that House and Senate legislation would allow a new 'public' insurance plan to cover abortions, despite language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for them." However, most private insurance plans DO cover abortion.
Besides Pence and Huckabee, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor also addressed the annual summit this morning.
In addition to speeches, book signings, and breakaway discussion groups, the confab is featuring a presidential straw poll. Nine potential GOP candidates are on that ballot, including Huckabee, Pence, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal.
In his speech, Huckabee also criticized President Obama's announcement that he was modifying plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, a project President George W. Bush spearheaded to defend against future Iranian nuclear threats that raised the ire of Russia.
"Our new policy is to walk softly and carry an olive branch, and maybe a bag of stay-puft marshmallows so we can sit around the campfire and sing kumbaya," Huckabee said.
Over the past few days, rumors had circulated that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be speaking at the event. Though her office had confirmed she would not be attending, many guests at the event still anticipated her appearance this afternoon.