Abortion funding restrictions vital to progress of health care reform bill, Rep. Stupak says

Rep. Bart Stupak
Rep. Bart Stupak

.- Countering critics who claim the Stupak Amendment will be altered or stripped from Congress’ health care reform bill, Rep. Bart Stupak says his pro-life amendment is vital to the legislation’s progress and was added “fair and square.”

"They're not going to take it out. If they do, health care will not move forward," Rep. Stupak told Fox News.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod said that President Obama does not think the health care bill should “change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion.” He predicted the president would intervene to change the legislation.

Abortion advocates claim that the Stupak Amendment, which restricts most abortion funding, would change the status quo by placing new restrictions on abortion coverage in the private market and by barring federally subsidized plans in the proposed insurance exchange from funding abortions.

PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ politics fact-checking website, says that some criticisms of the Stupak Amendment suggest its restrictions are “more severe and widespread than they actually are.”

Rep. Stupak, the pro-life Michigan Democrat who pressed for the amendment, dismissed the claim of Axelrod that President Obama would try to change the language.

"We won fair and square... That's why Mr. Axelrod's not a legislator. He doesn't really know what he's talking about," the Congressman told Fox News.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday said the Stupak Amendment’s language raised many House members’ “comfort level” with the bill.

The Stupak Amendment passed by a margin of 240-194, while the overall House health care bill H.R. 3962 passed by a narrow vote of 220-215.

Colorado Congresswoman Rep. Diana DeGette on Tuesday claimed that Rep. Stupak will not have the votes to block a health care bill that doesn’t contain his amendment’s restrictions.

Rep. DeGette, a Democrat and a co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, claimed that lawmakers who previously supported the amendment were developing a new understanding of its implications.

“I think he won't have the votes when people explain to those members what exactly the Stupak amendment does," she told ABC News’ “Top Line” webcast.

Rep. DeGette said that groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) should have a place in the process but not the final say, according to The Hill.

"Last I heard, we had separation of church and state in this country," she said. "I've got to say that I think that the Catholic bishops and all of the other groups should have input."

The Hill initially misquoted Rep. DeGette as saying that such groups should not have input, a comment which many pro-life leaders criticized before it was corrected.

However, Rep. DeGette in her 2008 pro-embryonic stem cell research book “Sex, Science and Stem Cells” dismissed “the many tentacles of the Catholic Church, trying to influence a dialogue that's already difficult to begin with.”

The House health care bill must be reconciled with any bill produced by the Senate. Presently, the Senate legislation does not contain a Stupak Amendment.

On Monday Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) told CNA that pro-life Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has already said he does not want any funding of abortion. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania has also taken that position.

There are conflicting reports about whether these pro-life Democrats would support Stupak Amendment restrictions in the Senate bill. CNN has reported that Sen. Nelson would be satisfied with the less restrictive provisions of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill.

Sen. Casey also issued a statement which some reports construed as a retreat from the Stupak Amendment. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette politics blog “Early Returns” on Monday published a statement from Casey spokesman Larry Smar which read:

“The suggestion that Senator Casey thinks that there is no room for a Senate amendment like the Stupak Amendment that passed the House is incorrect and does not reflect his position or the statement I issued that explained his support for health care reform and his support for measures to keep the bill neutral on abortion.”

The spokesman added that Sen. Casey had voted for an amendment “very similar” to the Stupak Amendment.

“His position has not changed since that vote."

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