Ezra Klein on Stupak's Real Effect

Why the pro-life amendment is actually about class

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The Stupak Amendment, which forbids public health insurance from subsidizing abortions, secured the passage of the House's health care reform bill, while incensing liberals over the potential increase in abortion restrictions. Yet The Washington Post's liberal health care guru Ezra Klein argues that the Stupak amendment is about much more than abortion rights. Klein notes that the legislation only affects those who have neither employee-provided nor self-bought insurance, which in practice will mean the lower-income and unemployed. He writes:

The idea that people are going to go out and purchase separate "abortion plans" is both cruel and laughable. If this amendment passes, it will mean that virtually all women with insurance through the exchange who find themselves in the unwanted and unexpected position of needing to terminate a pregnancy will not have coverage for the procedure. Abortion coverage will not be outlawed in this country. It will simply be tiered, reserved for those rich enough to afford insurance themselves or lucky enough to receive from their employers.

Klein explains why he thinks the legislators targeted "poorer women" instead of middle-class and wealthier women, who will go unaffected:

Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage. It would, after all, have been the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage. But it would have failed in an instant. That group is too large, and too affluent, and too politically powerful for Congress to dare to touch their access to reproductive services. But the poorer women who will be using subsidies on the exchange proved a much easier target. In substance, this amendment was as much about class as it was about choice.

The question of whether federal funding should pay for abortions is as complex as it is toxic, with liberals rallying for expanded abortion rights and conservatives wary of sending tax dollars to abortion clinics. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, the idea of a double standard -- especially one that is so much tougher on the poor -- is not likely to appeal to either party. The Stupak Amendment's provisions will still have to be debated by the Senate and reconciled in conference committee. If Klein is successful in framing the issue as one of socio-economic class rather than of abortion, it could very well change the tenor of the debate.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.