Abortion Threatens to Sink Health Care Reform

Rep. Bart Stupak could make it happen

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House Democrat Bart Stupak has announced that he and 11 other lawmakers could switch their "yes" votes on health care reform to "no" over compromises in the bill's abortion provisions. Stupak, a dedicated pro-lifer, originally introduced firm anti-abortion restrictions into the House bill. The so-called Stupak Amendment, which would sharply reduce already-present health care coverage for abortions, infuriated liberals, who warned it would primarily hurt low-income women who needed it most. But the Stupak Amendment also greatly aided passage of the House health care bill, which passed by a razor-thin margin on the support of moderate Democrats like Stupak.

President Obama has worked out a deal with Democratic leaders for the House to pass the Senate bill, which would mean accepting the Senate's looser abortion restrictions. The House still faces significant challenges in wrangling votes. Could abortion kill the House vote, and thus Obama's hopes of health care reform?

  • This Is Obama's Biggest Problem  So declares Hotline's Reid Wilson. "Obama's problem in passing the bill is not GOPers, who won't vote for the measure anyway, or the Senate, where he can lose several vulnerable or antsy Dems and still get it done." It's pro-life House Dems like Stupak and the other reticent Democrats who may have to replace their votes. "Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to work with the 39 Dems who voted no the first time to get the votes she needs for passage."
  • Pro-Life Groups Could Target Stupak  Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey points out that Stupak et al. aren't just being obstinate. They have to consider their reelection bids, which could come under serious threat if they are targeted by pro-life or religious groups like the National Right to Life Council. "The question will be whether Stupak and other pro-life Democrats will vote for an abortion mandate mechanism in the end just to appease Pelosi and Obama. NRLC bets that they won't -- but if they do, NRLC wants to make sure that it sticks to them in the midterm elections."
  • So Begins the Health Care Capsize  Conservative blogger Allahpundit thinks this is the beginning of the end. "The beauty of [wavering House Democrats] speaking up, of course, is that it'll encourage other fencesitters to commit to voting no. The less likely it seems that this thing will pass, the less undecideds have to worry about their vote being the difference and the easier it becomes to abandon ship. Here's to an imminent dam burst."
  • Does Obama Plan Keep Status Quo?  George Stephanopoulos recounts his talk with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Sebelius - also on GMA - disagrees [with Stupak], saying the President's plan does 'maintain the status quo' on abortion funding. But if Stupak and his allies don't buy that argument, can the bill pass? Hard to see, unless Stupak's group is much smaller than he says."
  • Religious Right's Ethical Compromise  Liberal blogger Digby explores the logic behind killing health care reform, an initiative that would do a lot of good, over abortion. "As they have shown in the decisions around gay marriage, they are perfectly willing to let people go uncovered rather than even take a chance that they might have to provide services they have determined are religiously improper. That's the moral deal they make. So, it's not surprising in the least that they would be willing to continue the uninsured status quo for similar reasons."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.