Abortion Continues To Snag Health Reform Legislation, Divide Lawmakers
The divisive issue of abortions, a lingering hurdle to health reform legislation, is plaguing both House and Senate Democratic leaders, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The delays in both houses reflect the fact that even though Democrats hold solid majorities, significant divisions exist below the surface. The challenge is particularly great where abortion is concerned. House and Senate leaders already have adopted language that they say would prevent federal funds from being used to cover abortions. But some antiabortion lawmakers say that the language needs to be stronger" (Oliphant, 11/4).
CQ Politics reports on related events unfolding in the House: Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., who is opposed to abortion, proposed placing a requirement in the bill that "pro-life" insurance plans be available to all Americans; meanwhile, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., has proposed outright banning insurance plans that receive federal subsidies from covering abortions. Ellsworth said his proposal was a contingency plan for anti-abortion advocates, but the Right to Life Committee called said "it is always unpleasant to be bayoneted in the back by somebody who said that he was on your side" (Wayne, 10/3).
Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor reports, Stupak, "said he has 40 Democratic votes in his camp, just enough to keep the bill from reaching the minimum 218 votes needed for a majority." Not all of the anti-abortion Democrats who Stupak says support him have been identified. Stupak said in a statement Tuesday, "I have had some serious conversations over the past few days with the White House and House leadership However, there is no agreement and I will oppose bringing the bill to the floor until an amendment can be offered or language agreed to that will prevent public funding for abortion" (Feldman, 11/3).
And beyond Capitol Hill, NPR reports that "the issue is also causing headaches for the Catholic Church, where a long-standing opposition to abortion is running headlong into the church's equally long-standing support for a comprehensive health overhaul." A spokesperson for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told NPR, "We want health care reform very, very much, but we cannot do that over children's dead bodies, to put it most bluntly. There is a fundamental issue here about whether taking life should be treated the same way as supporting and healing life" (Rovner, 10/3).
Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, R.I., said last week "that Catholic legislators who 'obstinately' oppose church doctrine on such key issues 'really have to question their membership in the church,'" the Providence Journal reports. The comments came after "a heated exchange" between Tobin and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who accused the church's rigid position of fanning "the flames of dissent and discord" (Mulligan, 11/4).