Drawing opposition from pro-abortion politicians and activists, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is leading a coalition of about 40 pro-life Democrats who are petitioning for an opportunity to vote Hyde Amendment-like abortion funding restrictions into the proposed health care reform legislation.
Rep. Stupak is negotiating with Congressional leaders to resolve the dispute. He has threatened to block action on the larger health care reform bill unless he is allowed to offer a stand-alone amendment during floor debate to include the Hyde Amendment, the Associated Press reports.
The amendment would bar federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered. The amendment applies to Medicaid funding, requiring that states which cover abortion for low-income women can only use state taxpayer money, and not federal funds.
In its current form, the health care reform bill would create a new stream of federal funds outside the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.
Rep. Stupak has criticized current language that purports to segregate federal funds and funds used in abortions.
"Once you get the affordability credits (subsidies) in there, that's public funding of abortion. We're not going there," Stupak told the Associated Press. "How do you get past the affordability credits is really the issue. And we can't."
Speaking to CNSNews.com on Thursday, Stupak said that his group of “about 40 likeminded Democrats” will vote to kill the health-care bill if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) does not allow a floor vote on his amendment.
“We will try to—we, there’s about 40 likeminded Democrats like myself—we’ll try to take down the rule,” Stupak said. “If all 40 of us vote in a bloc against the rule—because we think the Republicans will join us—we can defeat the rule. The magic number is 218. If we can have 218 votes against the rule, we win.”
To block the bill, he must assemble “no” votes on a procedural measure that needs to pass before debate can begin. Stupak says he thinks he can gather about 220 "no" votes.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claimed that everything possible has been done to ensure abortion services will not be federally funded. He said he is working on the issue with Rep. Stupak.
According to the Associated Press, Rep. Waxman said that Rep. Stupak’s preferred provision would deny any subsidy money to any insurance plan that includes abortion coverage. This would deny to women what he said were legal and sometimes medically necessary procedures.
The pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America has criticized the present form of the bill, arguing that it singles out abortion from “other health care services.”
“Apparently it was necessary to stop anti-choice politicians from continuing to use health care reform to attack a woman's right to choose,” the group’s president Nancy Keenan said.
NARAL has sent a letter to supporters singling out Rep. Stupak for criticism and asking them to call congressmen to ensure his defeat.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has said it cannot support a health care reform bill unless the pro-life language is strengthened.
Commenting on Friday, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said the proposed bill “explicitly authorizes” the public plan to pay for elective abortions.
“Democratic leaders, including President Obama, have claimed that no federal funds would be used to pay for abortions, but this is a deception, because the public plan will be a federal agency program that can spend only federal funds. The federal government would pay abortion providers for performing elective abortions -- a sharp break from decades of federal policy."
“Recent polls show strong public opposition to government funding of abortion and abortion coverage," he added, saying an amendment would be needed to remove abortion from the federal plan.