November 18, 2009
Abortion Remains Central in Health Care Debates
Debates over whether the federal government should fund abortion became central in passing final health care legislation after the House passed the Stupak amendment, which bans funding abortion. “The simple math in the House suggests the health bill wouldn't have passed without the votes of the moderates who came to the ‘yes’ side after the Stupak amendment,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some pro-choice critics of the amendment say that it goes far beyond previous limits placed on federal funding of abortions, diminishing the legal standing of abortion based on Roe v. Wade. Pro-choice advocates are determined to stop the bill from passing the Senate with the amendment attached. Tuesday, the pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights launched a new ad aimed at warning viewers that Congress could “ban abortion coverage millions of women already have.”
The Conference of Catholic Bishops is pushing back against pro-choice lobbyists in order to retain the amendment, denying in a recent assessment that the Stupak amendment would affect existing access to abortion because it only applies to the use of government money and not private insurance options. (The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio also break down the terms of the amendment and agree that the affect of the amendment will be minimal.) The Los Angeles Times noted that the Catholic organization, which has been lobbying the federal government to provide universal health insurance for the past three decades, wielded significant influence in the addition of the amendment because the organization will not support a bill that covers abortion.
President Obama reportedly wants to strip the amendment from the bill before it passes the Senate, and several pro-choice senators have spoken out against the amendment, as well. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) claimed Tuesday that there were not enough pro-life senators to retain the amendment in the Senate version of the bill:
"Harry Reid's not going to put the Stupak language in the bill, I'd be certain. ... Then the Republicans will try to amend it into the bill, and they will be unsuccessful; they won't even get close to 50 votes."
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List has focused on pressuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to support the amendment, calling on Reid to live up to his “pro-life commitments.” Reid is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which does not condone abortion.
Obama adviser David Axelrod did not rule out the idea that Obama would veto his own reform plan, according to Politico:
Axelrod said Obama hasn't said whether he'll sign or veto legislation over its stance on the so-called public option and won't say whether the abortion language could cause Obama to oppose the legislation. "He believes both these issues can and will be worked through before it reaches his desk," the Obama adviser said.
However, Axelrod did acknowledge that the abortion funding limits offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) ran counter to Obama's stated desire to avoid using the health care bill to change the federal government's stance towards abortion.
"The bill that Congress passed does change the status quo," Axelrod said on CNN. "There are discussions ongoing about how to adjust it accordingly."
Reid plans to unveil legislation today, with a vote to proceed expected by the end of the week.