Democrats Pressure Stupak On Abortion; Split Threatening Health Bill
A split among Democrats on abortion is threatening to derail efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system.
The Hill reports that "lawmakers took sides over whether the final health care bill contains language that would allow people receiving government subsidized health care to obtain an abortion and a White House official accused abortion opponent Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) of being 'misinformed' about the Senate bill." Stupak held a bloc of anti-abortion Democrats together on an initial vote last fall after their demands were met in House legislation tightening restrictions on using federal dollars for abortions. Such tight restrictions are missing from the Senate version of legislation, however, even as party leaders pressure the House to adopt the Senate version of a health overhaul.
In the meantime, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Stupak is misinformed on whether the Senate bill would force federal funds to be used for abortions or would outlaw it. Sebelius said legal analysts say no money would be used for abortions as the current bill is written. "On Sunday, Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who voted against the House's health care bill, said that once again, if the similar abortion language is allowed into the final version of the bill, the House may not have the votes to pass it" (Yager, 3/7).
The Washington Times reports that issues splitting Democrats range from "rising health care costs and addressing regional disparities on Medicare rates to a general skepticism of the Senate." It said that "rank-and-file House Democrats are struggling to support Mr. Obama's plan as they close in on midterm elections." Liberals are also disappointed that there's no public option in the president's legislation and that the subsidies to help low-income Americans afford health insurance aren't sufficient (Haberkorn, 3/8).