House Bill Abortion Deal Creates A New Set Of Reform Challenges
The New York Times reports that a "restriction on abortion coverage, added late Saturday to the health care bill passed by the House, has energized abortion opponents with their biggest victory in years - emboldening them for a pitched battle in the Senate." The Times notes that "the provision would block the use of federal subsidies for insurance that covers elective abortions" and is a major win -- "the biggest turning point in the battle over the procedure since the ban on so-called partial birth abortions six years ago."
"Both sides credited a forceful lobbying effort by Roman Catholic bishops with the success of the provision, inserted in the bill under pressure from conservative Democrats. The provision would apply only to insurance policies purchased with the federal subsidies that the health legislation would create to help low- and middle-income people, and to policies sold by a government-run insurance plan that would be created by the legislation" (Kirkpatrick and Pear, 11/8).
The Wall Street Journal: "Abortion-rights supporters say the change would likely prevent any insurer who sells policies on the new government insurance exchanges from covering abortions, regardless of whether the purchaser is using a tax credit." Most private insurers offer packages that cover abortion but not all employers provide it. Abortions typically cost between $350 and $900. (Adamy, 11/9).
NPR reports that the amendment in addition to banning direct federal funding for abortion also disallows any federal funding for insurance companies that offer abortion services (Rovner and Inskeep, 11/9).
Politico reports that wrangling, and in some cases shouting matches, ensued among Democrats after the deal was struck. "(House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi wasn't the only one getting pressure on the amendment. As rumors spread that Republicans might vote 'present' in order to scuttle the entire bill, even Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called Republican leader John Boehner to make sure the GOP didn't play any games with the Stupak (abortion) amendment, sources said" (O'Connor and Bresnahan, 11/8).
The Washington Post reports that even as Democrats seek to use their Saturday victory to generate health reform momentum, they will now face a new challenge: "profound dismay among abortion-rights supporters over antiabortion provisions inserted into the House bill. But abortion-rights supporters are vowing to strip the amendment out, as the focus turns to the Senate and the conference committee that would resolve differences between the two bills." House Majority Chief Deputy Whip Diana DeGette, D-Colo., says she has enough votes against the amendment to block final passage of the post-conference bill in the lower chamber (MacGillis, 11/9).