"I’m opposed to the [Stupak] amendment," Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told Politico.com. "I think it goes too far. It attempts to regulate private money in a private market. I think we need to continue down the path of limiting taxpayer dollars for abortions, but I don’t think we should go wander over into the territory of controlling people’s private money in the private market." This has become the central complaint against the Stupak Amendment, that it goes too far.
This comment shows that the first task of the USCCB in trying to preserve the Stupak Amendment’s ban on federal funding of abortion is to educate members of Congress and the administration. (Cong. Stupak himself has an article at Politico this morning that also answers this need.) The Stupak Amendment does not, in fact, attempt "to regulate private money in a private market." The insurance companies, not the legislative language itself, have said that they will not offer plans that cover abortion in the exchanges to be set up under the reform bill, and they do so because they think the pools of people will be too small to support such a policy. That is a private market decision.
Of course, the government regulates the private market all the time. And, here is an instance where they should do so again. The administration should find a way to make sure that the insurance companies will provide policies that cover abortion that women, with their own money and with no government subsidies, can purchase just as they can do today. Perhaps, the answer is to allow the administrators of the exchanges to grant permission to women who can’t find such a policy within the exchange to shop in another exchange. Perhaps, the insurance companies can re-assure the pro-choice advocates that they will offer such policies.
The politics of the health care debate is one long high wire act. At any point, it can all fall off the wire and it is vital, literally vital, to the millions of Americans who lack health insurance coverage that it not fall off the wire. The White House should leave Stupak alone and find a different way to answer the concern raised by Sen. McCaskill. The USCCB must recognize that so long as there is no federal funding of abortion, no return to the gimmickry of the Capps Amendment – and that is non-negotiable - they can allow the administration to find some kind of bone to throw to the pro-choice community.
Remember, we not only risk the health care reform bill if we don’t get this right, we also now risk the Stupak Amendment which is a part of that bill. It is a huge achievement to have passed pro-life health care reform. To preserve it, now is the time to make sure the politicians and the public know what the Stupak Amendment does and does not do.