By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
While the House version of health care reform seems to be proceeding according to schedule, nearly two dozen pro-life Democrats are maintaining their threat to use a procedural move to block a vote on the bill unless members are permitted to vote on an amendment specifically prohibiting abortion funding in the bill.
For months, House leaders have resisted calls by the staunchly pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) to allow a House vote on an amendment prohibiting abortion funding in health care reform. The leadership knows that with the support of most of the Republicans in the House, the amendment will almost certainly pass, so they have instead tried to stall and/or out-negotiate Stupak.
To date, nothing has worked, including intense negotiations with long-time abortion supporter, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
According to the Associated Press, the problem lies in the proposed new federal subsidies that would help lower-income people purchase health care coverage from private plans – and potentially from a new government-sponsored plan – within a new purchasing exchange.
Currently a law called the Hyde amendment bars federal funding for abortion but proposed health care reform would create a new stream of federal funding not covered by the amendment.
Rep. Stupak says proposed language specifying that someone obtaining an abortion must use her own money, not federal money from the subsidies, doesn’t go far enough because it’s impossible to clearly segregate funds in that way.
“Once you get the affordability credits (subsidies) in there, that’s public funding of abortion. We’re not going there,” Stupak said. “How do you get past the affordability credits is really the issue. And we can’t.”
Pro-abortion lawmakers such as Waxman say that if Stupak gets his way and is able to bar any subsidy money from going to any insurance plan that includes abortion coverage, the result would be to deny women legal and sometimes medically necessary procedures.
The current impasse poses a problem for pro-abortion democrats, not because Stupak’s coalition of pro-life democrats has enough votes to kill the bill, but because they have enough votes to block action on the larger health overhaul bill by using a procedural measure that needs to pass before debate can even begin.
At present, thanks to Rep. Stupak’s persistence, the House has reached an impasse and will now have to decide if their health care reform package will allow federal funding of abortion.
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