The Backlash Against Stupak Begins

Liberal members of the Democratic caucus are realizing just how pro-life the Stupak Amendment restrictions are and the backlash is starting. We pro-lifers have been focusing on encouraging moderate Democrats in both the House and Senate to hang tough on abortion but pro-choice advocates are doing the same with those members who support their cause. Health Care reform is far from a done deal.

In this morning’s Washington Post Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado claims that she has more than 40 Democrats in the House who have pledged themselves to opposing any final bill that includes the Stupak Amendment. The problem with this is two-fold. First, passing laws is like squeezing a water balloon, when you tweak something at one end, something pops out on the other. The bill, with Stupak, garnered a majority of the chamber. That has been demonstrated. Any other configuration of the bill might get 218, it might not. No other configuration will get the vote of a Republican, that is for sure. Democrats like DeGette, in totally safe districts, may bluster and complain, but Speaker Pelosi needs to count votes.


The second problem is, well, more problematic. Rep. DeGette said, "There’s going to be a firestorm here. Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds." That is not true, but I understand her point. The Stupak Amendment prohibits any policies, private or public, offered in the insurance "exchanges" that are to be set up by the government from offering abortion coverage. This goes further than a mere ban on federal funding: There will be women who go to the exchange to find coverage who will not receive federal subsidies and they, also, will not be able to buy a policy in the exchange that covers abortion. In this sense, Stupak is not abortion-neutral, it is positively pro-life. I like that, and I hope we can keep it, but that single provision is not a deal-breaker for me and shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for the USCCB. Now, I suspect it is: Having achieved it once, they will be as loathe to give it up as the pro-choice crowd is loathe to swallow it.

But, here is where DeGette is also just wrong. The basic plans offered in the exchanges can’t offer abortion services but there is nothing in the bill that prevents women from buying an insurance rider or from paying for an abortion out-of-pocket. Sad to say, abortion is expensive morally and psychologically, but not monetarily. So, DeGette is wrong: Insurance companies will surely offer a variety of services with riders, and women will be free, as they are under current law, to purchase coverage for abortion services. The Senate might even entertain an amendment requiring at least one insurance company that participates in the exchange to offer such a rider. This is a far better solution than tampering with the Stupak language which achieves the complicated and non-negotiable goal of avoiding federal funding of abortion and abortion coverage.

There is a deeper issue as well. No one should confuse a legislative victory with a cultural one, or even with a political one. Speaker Pelosi is not now pro-life, she merely recognized the need to accommodate pro-life concerns to achieve her goal. It is still important that Catholics reach out to their representatives and senators. The Democrats need to be less doctrinaire in their pro-choice position (and those 64 Dem votes for Stupak were a good start) and the Republicans need to be less hostile to the Obama administration when it is pursuing policies that reflect the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. We need to convert the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world to the pro-life cause, not just force her into a legislative compromise. And conversion, like all evangelization, requires patience, listening, respect and solidarity with the person being evangelized. Building a culture of Life was helped by Saturday’s vote, but that task was not finished. That task will never be finished this side of the abyss.

No one at the USCCB should contact insurance companies to make sure they are coming up with insurance riders that cover abortion. On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi was whipping liberal, pro-choice Democrats to vote for a bill that included the Stupak Amendment. And, in a strange way, the final outcome on Saturday was profoundly bi-partisan: It took GOP votes to amend the bill to make it something the Democrats (and Cong. Cao) could pass. The legislative result was and is fragile. But, it is a result worth preserving and everyone should tread carefully.


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Robert Lynch
9 years 2 months ago
Another backlash is coming from the Catholic right who seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
9 years 2 months ago
People like MSW and America Magazine need to hold firm on this issue so that the liberals in the Democratic Party understand the consequences.
9 years 2 months ago
Also it looks like President Obama has taken as stand against Stupak. I guess he didn't want to ruin his reputation as the most pro-abortion president in the history of the country. I think his silence on the issue was due to his political posturing. Someone (Stupak) forced his hand!
Rudy Rau
9 years 2 months ago
I don't think the president has been posturing at all-he has said he wants no effort to put abortion funding in the bill and he isn't going to try and deny women access using their own money.  He's stayed on track as far as his position is concerned.
However, that isn't going to get him a health care reform bill to sign as the pro-life House members are not going to sign on to anything coming out of conference that doesn't have 'Stupak' wording in it. That's how it should be.
Moreover, the conscience clause has to be in there as well.
I disagree with Obama's pro-choice stand, but I don't see him trying to back-door more money for abortion as some people do. Nor is he suddenly going to support any effort to block access to abortion.
I doubt the senate is going to get any bill passed despite all the premature bragging on the part of Reid. Health care reform will probably die on the vine, killed by pro-abortion liberals and obstructionist republicans. And 40 million plus people will still be without access to good health care, all because people in the public sphere really couldn't care less about the uninsured.
9 years 2 months ago
Here is what the Democratic pro-choice congress people backlashing on Stupak amendment want... in money talk.[round numbers]
I calculate $48 million at most to fund uninsured abortions;'
The pro-choice congress people are willing to sink Obama to get these abortion tax dollars.

US 300 million population; 10% are not insured =30 million; half are women =15 million; Planned Parenthood budget =1 billion W/ $350 million coming from the government.
It appears that the pro-choice want to sink health care over $48 million dollars in order to 'cement in' their insistence that abortion access with tax dollars trumps all. They need to be shown up for the extemists they are..
Everyone should be calling on Pro-life Dems to stop them,,
We called on Pelosi ,our rep., to take heed.
Helena Loflin
9 years 2 months ago
Here's what President Obama had to say on the matter to Tapper w/ABC:
"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions."
Saying the bill cannot change the status quo regarding the ban on federally funding abortions, the President said "there are strong feelings on both sides" about an amendment passed on Saturday and added to the legislation, "and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo." ...
"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test - that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices," he said.
Joe, President Obama has never been "silent" on this issue.  Oops!  I guess FOX/GOP FictionNews doesn't cover much of what Obama really says and does.
Helena Loflin
9 years 2 months ago
Too bad.  Healthcare insurance reform is washed up.  We now have an anti-abortion bill instead of a healthcare reform bill.  Prediction: Nothing will get passed and no one will get anything they want.  But, both sides will have the satisfaction of thinking, "We sure showed them!"  In the meantime, a broken system continues to spiral out of control, predatory insurance companies step up their unethical practices and price gauging, and the disadvantaged continue to have abortions because they struggle without a healthcare safety net.  It's a lose-lose-lose-lose...
9 years 2 months ago
sorry some sentences were deleted; here's how the numbers work is at most $48 million;..
only 6.4 million uninsured women are between 15 -44; 19 woman out of 1000 have abortions = 120,000 abortions x $400each =$48,000,000... this is too high because only 20%-25% of woman use insurance on abortion [privacy reasons] So maybe we are only talking about $12,000,000 tax dollars!This measly sum is important to the pro-choice because they want to embed abortion into the tax law too.
9 years 2 months ago
Fox Network did not carry the president's speech to congress.
THE PRESIDENT:  It's not true.  And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.  (Applause.)
Federal subsidy for abortion IS "federal dollars" that will be "used to fund abortions".
This language is clear to me.  They are trying to "sneak" in funding for abortion.  Obama is great at saying one thing but meaning another.  I am Jesuit trained but you don't have to have studied with the Jesuits to see that he is trying to have it both ways.
Abortions are cheap (thats what the free market does, it drives down the price).  Don't worry Harry, the Supak amendment won't decrease abortions.  It will just prevent the government from spending my money on someone elses abortion.
Think Catholic
9 years 2 months ago
Oooops, looks like not only will the Stupak amendment face challenges in the Senate and conference.  Now the beloved President, the supposed abortion reducer, who according to MSW is supposedly not the radical abortion supporter he claimed to be, took his very first opportunity to to slam the Stupak Amendment as taking away women's insurance choices.  Oh yes we can all keep our same insurance which in the House bill means no one can, except let's make sure, let's go out of our way to guarantee, that people with abortion coverage get to keep that. 
And we are to believe that Obama deserves pro-life credentials because of the Stupak amendment, which he is trying to undermine right out of the box?  What a joke.
Gabriel Marcella
9 years 2 months ago
Harry and Fellow Commentators:
My Jesuit education tells me that the best we might get from this president is equivocation, as follows:
"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill."
"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test - that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices."
The first sentence says one thing, the second contains coded language about "not restricting women's insurance choices." Although not reassuring, equivocation might be better than the NY Times editorial of today, which recycles the notion that abortion is a woman's right, this time under the cover of health care. MSW is right: we must carry on the work of building a culture of life.
James Lindsay
9 years 2 months ago
The final bill may not have insurance exchanges at all, if moderate Democrats in the Senate have their way, so this may not be an issue. Also, as I have been saying, there is really no difference between giving someone a direct subsidy which they use to buy an insurance policy which includes abortion and an indirect subsidy through their employer - which is current law - except of course for the result that there will be more abortions in some cases. Overall, however, there will be fewer abortions overall if families have a better safety net (which conservative right to lifers are loathe to admit).

In other words, there is a long way to go and after the Senate acts, Stupak may be irrelevant. This whole debate may have, after all, been about tribalism and USCCB clout than anything else.


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