Health care abortion debate centers on whether Stupak Amendment is ‘status quo’

Kristen Day / David Axelrod
Kristen Day / David Axelrod


White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod has suggested that President Obama will intervene to alter the Stupak Amendment in health care legislation, claiming that it changes the “status quo” on abortion. A leader of a pro-life Democratic group told CNA in response that the Stupak Amendment is itself the status quo.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” 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.”

“This shouldn't be a debate about abortion. And he's going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed,” he continued.

Axelrod said that the issue “can and will” be worked out before the bill reaches his desk.

Last Monday President Obama told ABC News that his “simple principle” is that the legislation is “a health care bill, not an abortion bill.”

“And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but on the other hand that we're not restricting women's insurance choices,” he continued.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday that Americans do not want any taxpayer money going toward abortion.

“I think it would be very difficult to pass a bill that, in effect, either directly or indirectly provided tax money to pay for abortions,” he said, predicting there would be many amendments to the bill overall.

In a Monday interview, CNA spoke with Democrats for Life President Kristen Day about the future of the Stupak Amendment’s restrictions on abortion funding.

“Judging from the president’s comments over the weekend, it looks like he has some interest in trying to move this forward,” she told CNA. “Some intervention from the president will be helpful as we try to negotiate with Congress on the Senate side.”

She reported that pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has already said he does not want any funding of abortion.

“Senator Casey has said the same thing,” Day added.

She told CNA that Sen. Carper, a Delaware Democrat, had voted for language similar to the Stupak Amendment in committee.

“The general sense of the American public is that they don’t want public funding for abortions. The Stupak Amendment says that. So hopefully the Senate will find some way to put similar language in there.”

Neutralizing the issue of abortion, Day said, would be “a positive way to move forward with health care reform.”

Asked how the Stupak Amendment would fare in talks to reconcile Senate and House versions of health care legislation, she commented:

“In an ideal world the Stupak Amendment would be adopted in the Senate. If it’s not, I think it will be very difficult to remove this language from the bill unless there is an agreement worked out ahead of time. Because there are strong coalitions on each side that either do or don’t want public funding for abortions.”

The House spoke “very clearly” by passing the Stupak Amendment, she continued, predicting that its removal “wouldn’t sit comfortably” with the 64 Democrats who voted for it.

It will be a “very difficult road” to find a way to keep Stupak’s language in the legislation, Day said, “but I think that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Asked to respond to David Axelrod's claims that the Stupak Amendment changes the status quo on abortion, Day told CNA the problem all along has been “a disagreement about what the status quo is.”

Had abortion restrictions passed in the Senate Finance Committee, Day noted, “We could have resolved this months ago.”

“We think the status quo is the Stupak Amendment, with no public funding of abortion. I think the amendment was written in a way that was very consistent with the Hyde Amendment language. And I think that the language should stay.”

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