“The Speaker is not happy with me”
–Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) commenting on Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to his amendment that would prohibit taxpayer-funded abortion in healthcare reform.
The healthcare bills working their way through Congress should be opposed, and for so many reasons. They would ration care, expand entitlements, make all Americans dependent on government-approved insurance plans and add to our already stifling national debt. The bill passed by the House is horrendous. Whatever emerges from the Senate and later from the congressional conference committee should be opposed full stop.
That said, there is an interesting debate taking place among congressional Democrats about whether to include an amendment to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion. At the conclusion of that debate, Democrats will face a revealing choice: between achieving their most sought after legislative goal and appeasing their pro-abortion fringe.
Put simply, the life and death of the healthcare bill may rest, literally, on life and death.
The Stupak-Pitts amendment to the House health care reform bill bans individuals from using new government subsidies to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, and prohibits a government-run plan from carrying abortion coverage, except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is endangered. The Stupak amendment is essentially an extension of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits most federal tax dollars from funding abortions in Medicaid.
The Stupak amendment passed 240-194, with support from 64 House Democrats and all but one Republican.
While some pro-lifers were encouraged by this vote, given the Democratic Party’s unflinching fidelity to the radical abortion lobby, I find it highly unlikely that the final health care bill will prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion.
Abortion groups are already complaining publicly about Democrats for abandoning their cause. Abortion leaders Kate Michelman and Francis Kissling warned in a New York Times op-ed, “If Democrats do not commit themselves to defeating the [Stupak] amendment, then they will face an uncompromising effort by Democratic women to defeat them, regardless of the cost to the party’s precious majority.”
Laurie Rubiner, Vice President of policy for Planned Parenthood, said the fight over the amendment “has completely galvanized the reproductive health community and the women’s community.”
Abortion activists are picketing Democratic offices. The liberal Democracy for America is sending hundreds of wire hangers to 20 abortion-rights-supporting House Democrats who voted for Stupak.
The abortion activists’ message is clear: If a health care reform bill passes that does not force taxpayers to fund abortions, Democrats will pay at the bank and at the voting booth.
If that were not enough, it is highly unlikely that the most pro-abortion president in history would pass a bill that angers his pro-abortion allies. Obama calls abortion “one of the most fundamental rights we possess.” He had a 110 percent pro abortion record during his legislative career, the extra ten percent coming from two votes as state senator against bills to protect babies born alive after botched abortions.
Despite his assertions to the contrary, Obama has never met an abortion he would not fight to keep legal and fund at taxpayers’ expense. In 2007, Obama said, “reproductive care is essential care, it is basic care, so it is at the center and at the heart of the plan that I propose.” Of course, what abortion advocates call “reproductive care” is code for an agenda whose sole purpose is to combat reproduction.
Last Sunday Obama senior advisor David Axelrod said the president will work with congressional Democrats to “adjust” the Stupak abortion language, which probably means he will ensure abortion funding bans are removed when the bill reaches the Senate-House conference committee.
How vital is taxpayer-funded abortion to the Democratic agenda? Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette has organized a group of roughly 40 liberals she says will vote against health care reform if the Stupak language isn’t removed.
Democrats have vowed to keep Stupak-like language from passing in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid released text of the Senate’s health care bill, and it does not contain the House abortion language.
That Democrats are willing to torpedo Barack Obama’s signature initiative unless it contains a requirement for taxpayers to fund abortions should surprise no one. After all, the Democratic Party Platform guarantees the right to abortion “regardless of ability to pay.” And last year Democrats dropped the “rare” from its goal of making abortion “safe, legal and rare,” a mainstay on the platform for decades.
Most revealing, in 2000, platform language stated, “The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.” That language was also dropped last year.
For all the Democrats’ complaints about the GOP supposed close-mindedness on abortion, the way they treat pro-lifers in their own ranks makes me think party officials should post a sign outside party headquarters that reads, “The Democratic Party — Pro-lifers Need Not Apply.”
Let’s be clear about what the Stupak amendment would and would not do. It would not restrict access to contraception. It would not prevent private plans within a health insurance exchange from offering abortion. It would not prohibit individuals purchasing plans in the exchange with their own money from choosing a plan that offers abortion. And it would include exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
The American public doesn’t want to fund abortion. A recent study by International Communications Research found that 67 percent of respondents were opposed to using federal funds to pay for abortions. And a 2008 Zogby poll found 71 percent of respondents felt similarly.
None of this matters to a Democratic leadership feeling the full force of the powerful abortion lobby. After facing either a pro-life president or pro-life Congress in 26 of the last 29 years, the abortion movement is energized and emboldened like never before. They want no compromise of their agenda. But until a vote on a final bill, the battle is not over.