Rep. Bart Stupak doubled down today on his strong stance against federal funding of abortion in the health care reform effort. He pledged that if any attempt is made to water down the language of his amendment or to remove it entirely, a tactic that was suggested by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and White House political advisor David Axelrod, Stupak would vote against the bill along with 10 to 20 other Democrats.
Stupak’s amendment bars federal subsidies from going to any insurance provider on the Pelosi health care bill’s exchanges that pays for abortion coverage. It’s a variation of the decades-old Hyde amendment, which prevents abortion coverage under Medicare and in military hospitals. All the new Stupak amendment does is continue the status quo of keeping taxpayer money from funding abortions.
Yet stringent abortion-rights believers see the Stupak amendment as a direct assault on a woman’s right to choose. They’re missing that a woman will still have the right to choose an abortion, but the taxpayers won’t be forced to pay for it. Even still, harsh invective is being thrown Stupak’s way, and on some level you have to give him credit for standing by his beliefs on an amendment that passed legally in the House of Representatives.
Regardless of your beliefs on abortion, I would hope the wrong would be recognized of telling the millions of Americans who have moral or ethical issues with abortion that their tax dollars (which they can’t “choose” to not pay) will be used to perform medical procedures against which they have strong beliefs. Roe isn’t being overturned by the Stupak amendment, and private insurers will continue to offer abortion coverage as they do currently, just without federal subsidies supporting them. But it’s amazing to me that the entire Democratic health care reform effort is being jeopardized by those who believe that under no circumstance can any restriction be placed on tax money going for abortions.
Does Stupak’s warning carry weight? 10 to 20 Democrats switching votes might not sound like a lot, but consider the tiny 5-vote margin of victory claimed by Pelosi a week ago in the middle of the night. A 10-vote swing against would kill the bill, but pressure would undoubtedly be brought hard against Blue Dog Democrats who were previously assured by their leadership they could vote “no” and did so.
I would still expect some effort to be made to water down Stupak’s language, and after publicly sticking his neck out like this, I believe Stupak would stand by his pledge to vote against the bill. To do otherwise would be to prove him an opportunistic liar, but Rep. Stupak is a politician, so anything is possible. It does throw yet another complication into an already murky health care debate and sets up more internecine fighting on Capitol Hill.