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Pro-Lifers Win on Abortion Issue -- House Expected to Pass Health Care Reform Today

November 7, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The House Rules Committee met from 2 p.m. until 1 in the morning on Friday to strike a deal on the health care debate that will take place in the House today. Though the health care bill is 2,000 pages long and overhaul’s one-sixth of the nation’s economy, the committee’s epic session revolved around just one thing: abortion.

The Democrats’ biggest threat to passing their health care bill comes from one of their own. Pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] says he has commitments from about 40 other Democrats to vote against the bill unless it’s language restricting the use of federal funds for abortions is amended and strengthened. With every single Republican expected to vote against the bill, Stupak’s pro-life bloc holds enough leverage to kill the bill. They have been threatening to vote against the “rule” governing the floor debate, effectively blocking the debate from beginning, if they are not allowed a floor vote on their amendment.

In the beginning of the day on Friday, the Rules Committee, which is basically an extension of the Democratic leadership, had several options on the table yesterday for resolving the abortion problem. But when the most promising compromise language on the issue was withdrawn by its sponsor, Rep. Brad Ellsworth [D, IN-8], they were left with only three options — add Stupak’s abortion amendment to the bill, call his bluff on voting down the “rule,” or let him have a floor vote on his amendment.

In the end, the leadership decided to give him a floor vote on his amendment. They hope that whether or not the amendment passes, the Democratic caucus will come together in the end to vote in favor of the bill on final passage. In other words, if the amendment fails, the fact that the leadership allowed it to happen might be enough to win votes from some of the 40 pro-life Democrats. And if it is adopted, pro-choice Democrats who oppose the amendment will likely still vote for the bill so as to not stand in the way of health care reform. (For a more detailed report on how the Rules Committee came to allow a vote on Stupak’s amendment, see Ryan Grim’s reporting.)

Senior Democrats believe the deal to allow a vote on the abortion amendment secure the votes needed to pass the health care bill. “You don’t go to the floor unless you’re there — and we’re there,” Rep. John Larson [D, CT-1] told the L.A. Times.

The Stupak Abortion Amendment

The amendment, which you can download and read in full here, would do three things.

First, it would codify the Hyde Amendment provisions in the bill so that the ban on federal funds being used for abortions besides those resulting from rape or incest, or in cases where the mother’s life is endangered would remain intact regardless of Hyde being reauthorized. As it’s currently written, the bill’s restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion coverage would end if the Hyde Amendment, which has been reauthorized by Congress on an annual basis since 1976, is not reauthorized.

Secondly, it would not allow individuals purchasing insurance at least in part with federal affordability credits to buy a plan that covers abortions. The bill as currently written would allow individuals to use affordability credits to buy insurance that includes abortion coverage, but it requires any such plan to segregate the credits from individual premium payments and ensure that only the premium payments are used to fund the abortion services portion of the plan.

Affordability credits are available under the bill to people who don’t get insurance from work and earn between 150% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. The Stupak amendment would bar all people in this income bracket from purchasing insurance that covers elective abortions unless they can afford to pay for a separate abortion coverage plan on their own. People earning below 150% of FPL would already be ineligible for abortion coverage because they will be on Medicaid, which does not cover abortions under Hyde. There are no concrete numbers for how many people would be denied an abortion-coverage option under the amendment, but it would likely be at least 20 million.

Thirdly, the Stupak amendment would dictate that the government-run public option does not provide abortion coverage. The bill currently leaves the decision of abortion coverage in the public option up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Allowing the public option to cover abortions would not violate the Hyde Amendment because the public option is not government funded; will be entirely financed by individual premiums, just like the private plans.

Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee has called today’s vote on the Stupak amendment the most important abortion vote in Congress since Roe.

Planned Parenthood says the amendment would be a discriminatory abortion ban. “This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all, by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes,” said Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood.

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  • BILLY1978 11/07/2009 3:00am
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  • listeningclosely 11/07/2009 3:50am
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    Well, if anyone votes on this bill, come the 2010 elections, their political careers are over!!!

    This bill goes against the Constitution of the U.S. and is more along the lines of a facisit and socialist government rule.


    So listen up House and Senate, vote for this bill and kiss your careers GOODBYE!!

    You will not be in office representing us, THE PEOPLE, when you are putting laws into effect that are AGAINST THE PEOPLE!!!

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    mrmcafee 11/07/2009 5:47am
    The supporter’s political careers would be over? Interesting assessment. Perhaps you should go back just about a year and take a look at the election results. I seem to recall that Barack Obama won – BIG. A MAJOR part of his campaign was health insurance reform that looked just about like this bill looks.

    The guys whose political careers are on the line are those Democrats that vote against this bill.

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    meomy 10/08/2010 5:15pm

    Did you know this was in the new bill as well?,what is going on.How did this get in the bill.

  • adn11 11/07/2009 5:37am

    Funny people!! If you call it a socialist when the government gets involve to run a certain system and setting up regulatory bodies to support the people and the free market system, then America should be labeled as socialist since its founding… unless of course you are looking for anarchy, or mob rule.

    Perhaps, you are dumb enough to even believe that corporates will automatically be responsible or even respond to stakeholders without laws and regulatory bodies…or maybe you’re just knowingly promoting corporate fascism.

    It’s about time that the House and Senate are stepping up passing this bill for the Americans.

  • oldtxgal 11/07/2009 8:08am
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    It’s the House and Senate which have hamstrung healthcare by restricting interstate commerce… the purchasing of insurance coverage across state lines. Giving the Trial Lawyers carte blanche to initiate frivilous lawsuits. Not only should there be caps on punitive damages, there should be caps on legal fees, both plaintiff and defense counsel. Of course most legislators are attorneys, and the lobby gifted $400 million in campaign contributions. Remember HMOs were Teddy Kennedy’s solution to the last “healthcare crisis”. That was the beginning of capitation.

    Surely don’t trust corporations, but trust Government less. Corporations respond to the market and real competition. Government is totally out of control. This healthcare bill needs aborting! Let the Dems prove they can fix Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security FIRST. Fat chance! You govt healthcare supporters just wait until taxes spiral, job losses continue, the USD crashes, and healthcare availability plummets.

  • nmeagent 11/07/2009 12:42pm
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    Hello slippery slope, my old friend…

  • citizen67 11/07/2009 2:53pm

    They threw a bone to the abortion opposers but there’s plenty more wrong with this bill. Like…all of it.

  • smearly 11/08/2009 2:05am

    And the government gets deeper and deeper into your life and your wallet. If this passes the Senate, Americans who supported this will wake up about 5 years from now and say, “What in the world did we do to our healthcare system?” but by then it will be too late. WAY too late.

  • dylansdad15 11/08/2009 3:03am

    I hope that everyone against this bill, never finds themselves in the position where it may be what stands between life of death. Stay true to your ideals friends. God forbid if it turns out to be a good thing for you too. And God forbid that a black man try to do more than pick cotton or find other things to do with a peanut, especially in America. America’s ignorance, and hatred of it self is causing it to implode, and may those who exploit that naivete find their personal lives in the same downward suicidal spiral. The times they are a changin’.

  • horselover1965 11/08/2009 2:32pm

    I agree that America is changing. There is something different about this Congress-the lack of love towards one another and the constant attack. I am not a proponent for this healthcare bill, because this, I don’t think, is something that our Founding Fathers would want in place. And by the way, there is more to this than healtcare. Look around and there will be a bill that wants the American government to regulate the internet-to shut it down should the government feel that there is a threat-possibly permanently should they get the bug up their butt to do so. There is also a bill to make certain newspapers-those approved by Congress and the president-non-profits exempt from taxes (in fact, under the same category as churches, homeless shelters, etc-except for “educational reasons”). I don’t know about you, but when has a newspaper been very educational on anything other than government propaganda?

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