Stupak Strikes Back: Abortion Threatens Health Care Bill AgainMarch 5, 2010 - by Eric Naing
In what were thought to be the waning days of the health care reform process, Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] came out of left field and introduced the issue of abortion to the debate – nearly sinking everything. Now that health care is again inching towards a finish line, Stupak has returned.
Stupak claimed that the Democratic health care plan would allow for federal funding of abortion. To placate him, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] agreed to add the “Stupak amendment” to the House health care bill (H.R.3962). The amendment prevents insurance plans that cover abortions from receiving federal dollars. Women who want abortion coverage must purchase another plan that does.
It says health insurance plans operating in a new consumer marketplace can cover abortion, but may be paid for with private premiums. Money from federal subsidies would have to be strictly segregated from any funds used to pay for abortion. Consumers would have to write two checks to their insurance plan, one for the regular premium, the other for abortion coverage.
Now Stupak is back and he says that if the more lax abortion provision in the Senate bill isn’t strengthened, he’ll flip 12 previous “yes” votes on health care in the House. The Democratic leadership, needing every vote they can get in the House to pass the Senate bill, is taking his threat seriously.
Number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] said yesterday that the leadership is considering a plan to pass a separate abortion bill after health care has passed. Since an abortion provision isn’t related to the budget, it likely wouldn’t qualify for reconciliation under the Byrd rule – thus requiring a separate bill.
But does the Senate health care bill actually fund abortion as Stupak and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops repeatedly claim?
Slate’s Timothy Noah convincingly says the answer is “no.” Noah has a much more detailed explanation that you should absolutely read but the moral of the story is essentially this:
What really rankles Stupak (and the bishops) isn’t that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to funding abortion. Rather, it’s that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to people who buy private insurance policies that happen to cover abortion at nominal cost to the purchaser (even the poorest of the poor can spare $1 a month) and no cost at all to the insurer. Stupak and the bishops don’t have a beef with government spending. They have a beef with market economics.
Regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, Democrats need Stupak and his 12 alleged “yes” votes in the House on board – especially now that they’re back to needing 217 votes instead of 216.