House Approval Of Reform Package Rested On White House Executive Order On Abortion
NPR: "Abortion was one of the most contentious issues in this debate from the very beginning, more than a year ago. A longstanding law - the Hyde Amendment - bars federal funds from being used to pay for elective abortions. It's an agreement between anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights lawmakers that is so delicate it could balance on a pin." On Sunday, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who had led a group of anti-abortion rights lawmakers, reached an agreement with the White House for an executive order that would "protect the sanctity of life, according to Stupak.
"What anti-abortion Democrats couldn't get into the final bill, they managed to achieve with that executive order: a blanket prohibition on the use of federal funds for elective abortions, the explicit separation of federal subsidies from private money when consumers buy health plans that cover abortions, and a clarification that the new health care laws legally protect hospitals, doctors and other providers that object to providing abortions as a matter of conscience" (Seabrook, 3/22).
ABC News: The House vote to pass sweeping health overhaul legislation "was certain after the House Democratic leadership finalized a deal ... with anti-abortion Democrats to vote for the Senate-passed health care bill in exchange for an executive order from Obama affirming no federal funding for abortion" (Khan, Karl and Wolf, 3/21).
Time: Stupak "said that the leaders were close to reaching 216 without him and he felt this was the best deal his group could get. ... House Democratic sources credited Representative John Dingell, the longest serving member in the history of Congress and dean of the Michigan delegation, for bringing Stupak around" (Small, 3/21).
CBS News Political Hotsheet: "The National Organization for Women released a statement saying it was 'incensed' by the White House move." Meanwhile, some GOP lawmakers who oppose abortion rights held a late afternoon press conference "saying the executive order is 'not worth the paper it is printed on' because it can be rescinded. One called President Obama 'the most pro-abortion president in history.' They called for Stupak and the lawmakers other anti-abortion rights lawmakers who have vowed to back the bill to change their minds" (Montopoli, 3/21).
Newsweek: "The National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, Family Research Council, and Susan B. Anthony List have all come out against the executive order strategy. Three of Stupak's anti-abortion rights colleagues, Dan Lipinski, Jerry Costello, and Gene Taylor, still oppose the bill, according to the National Review Online." But Time points out that, though the anti-abortion rights organizations are unhappy with this agreement, it "is not exactly a win for supporters of abortion rights. The bill's requirement to strictly segregate funds provides a disincentive for insurers to cover abortion" (Kliff, 3/21).
CQ: "Some Republicans and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops quickly decried the agreement, saying it would not have the same force as a ban written into law. ... Stupak acknowledged he would have preferred strong statutory language to an executive order. But he said such language could not get through the Senate." Meanwhile, CQ also reports that negotiations regarding the pending executive order's wording "stretched on for most of the day. Abortion-rights supporters pushed for changes to an early draft but agreed to support the final version, so long as it did not go beyond current law in restricting federal funding of abortion services or banning discrimination against health care providers who object to the procedure" (Benson and Ota, 3/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.