What Might an Executive Order on Abortion Do?

Bring votes together or tear Democrats apart?

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In a last-minute deal to win over Democratic holdouts, the president may agree to sign an executive order about abortion funding. "We're close but we're not there yet," said Rep. Bart Stupak to The Hill. The pro-life Democrat says he'll deliver the remaining votes necessary to pass health reform if the bill includes tougher abortion restrictions. An executive order specifying "no public funding for abortion" could satisfy Stupak and other conservative Democrats. What might this eleventh-hour promise do? Here's what pundits are projecting:

  • Cause the Pro-Choice Caucus to Revolt, writes Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics: "This is probably the key.  Part of the reason Stupak language was removed from the bill is that some 40 members promised to vote against a final conference report if it contained Stupak language.  If Obama makes some sort of executive order promise in order to bring Stupak on board, keep an eye on Diana DeGette (Denver), Nita Lowey (Westchester County), and Mike Quigley (Chicago)."
  • Insert Language that Is Redundant, notes pro-choice Allison Kilkenny at True/Slant: "Democratic officials have said they are pursuing the idea of promising that Obama would issue an executive order prohibiting the use of taxpayer money for abortions, an utterly redundant move that is already addressed in the Hyde Amendment."
  • Falsely Assure Stupak the Bill Is Pro-Life, writes conservative Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. She argues that if the bill is singed into law, no executive order can nullify statutory requirements in the bill. "In the list of deceptions... this one ranks up there. No, you haven’t forgotten your basic civics. An executive order cannot countermand a statute passed by Congress and signed by the president. If ObamaCare says, 'We will subsidize abortion,' no executive order can effectively say, 'but not really.' Others point out that an executive order could be rescinded by a second executive order.
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