In The House, Democrats Opposed To Abortion Threaten Reform Bill
Some House Democrats opposed to abortion are threatening to thwart health care reform legislation if it does not clearly steer away from funding abortions. Congress Daily reports: "With Republicans likely to try to use the emotional issue to draw support and money for 2010 contests, Democrats tried to make the bill 'abortion neutral' -- maintaining existing federal policy without further restricting abortion rights. But anti-abortion rights Democrats are forcing the conversation, and leaders have to answer because there are enough of them to disrupt the overhaul effort. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., says he has gathered a group of about 40 lawmakers who are willing to vote to prevent House leaders from bringing the health overhaul to the floor unless they allow a vote on an amendment to explicitly outlaw federal funding for abortion."
"Leaders are at an impasse on the issue, with both Stupak and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman refusing to give ground. ... The topic is one way to get leadership aides to deviate from sunny pronouncements declaring smooth healthcare sailing and point instead to a litany of unresolved issues -- medical devices, revenue measures, regional disparities and hospitals were all on one leadership aide's list. ... If leaders can't agree on changes to the abortion language, they will have to court anti-abortion rights members one by one, hoping to peel enough away to strip the group of its power to hold up the bill. The question is whether other changes will resolve the concerns of members who might not be willing to derail all of health reform because of abortion" (Hunt, 10/26).
Over the weekend, a number of news outlets were reporting on Stupak's comments and the legislative maneuvering. "Stupak, who is conservative on social issues, told CNS News that he has organized the voting bloc to support his amendment that would strip the abortion provisions from the legislation," The Hill reported. House Rules Committee chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), according to Stupak, said that there is 'no way' her panel would provide a vote for his amendment. The group of 40 would join House Republicans in voting against procedural measure that would draft rules for debating the bill on the House floor. Passage of the measure is necessary for the House to hold a floor vote. ... With 177 Republicans in the House, Stupak would need at least 41 Democrats to cross the aisle and vote against the rule. Stupak's amendment was originally defeated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee during mark-up" (Fabian, 10/24).
NPR's Scott Simon interviewed health policy correspondent Julie Rovner about the controversy: "Now, the main deal that's now in both the House and Senate bills was cut in the House Energy and Commerce Committee back in July. ... The idea, remember, is to write language that freezes in place current law on abortion. So, the amendment says that all funds that will pay for abortion will have to come from premiums paid by individuals, not from the federal government. That within each 'exchange' -- these are the new marketplaces where people will go to buy their insurance, if they buy it on their own or if they're small businesses -- in each exchange, there'll be one plan that does offer abortion as a benefit and one that doesn't. And that, in any case, funds that will pay for abortion will have to be segregated from any federal funds" (Rovner, 10/24).
St. Petersburg Times' Politifact put some of abortion claims through the Web site's "Truth-o-Meter: "Republican John Boehner said that the Democrat-backed House proposal 'will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.' We found that the federal government will not send tax dollars to abortion providers, so we rated his statement False. However, we found that health care plans that receive public money to help low-income people pay for insurance will be able to offer abortion coverage if those particular services are paid for with patient premiums, not the subsidies. So the National Right to Life Committee earned a True for its statement that a Senate bill 'contains provisions that would send massive federal subsidies directly to both private insurance plans and government-chartered cooperatives that pay for elective abortion'" (Drobnic Holan, 10/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.