Roundup: Stuck with Stupak, or Looking for Options?


Stupak Stupak Stupak.  Frankly, I don’t think I could be more tired of the word “Stupak.”  But like a splinter you keep pushing in deeper with your tweezers while you’re trying to get it out of your finger, there he is, still trying to hold healthcare hostage over his beliefs that women cannot be trusted with their own bodies.

Even his home town news outlets are shouting doom and gloom for reform because of him.

Rep. Bart Stupak has become the unofficial leader of a small but powerful bloc threatening to derail President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

A dozen socially conservative Democrats say they won’t support the legislation without a prohibition on paying for abortions with federal money. Stupak wrote a provision to their liking for a House bill approved last November, but the Senate replaced it with wording he considers unacceptable.

Opposition from his faction could doom the measure and cripple Barack Obama’s presidency.

Stupak is trying to bring down reform because he thinks the Senate bill isn’t as “pro-life” as his House version. But as David Gibson points out, he’s totally wrong.

A close reading of the two bills, however, informed by analyses from a range of experts, reveals that the pro-life claims about the Senate bill and its abortion financing provisions are, in fact, mistaken. Indeed, the Senate bill is in some respects arguably stronger in barring abortion financing and in promoting abortion reduction.

does the Senate reform bill finance abortion insurance coverage? The answer is no, and it is there in the bill, on page 2072: “If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage…the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services.” As Slate’s Timothy Noah put it, “That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions.”

What concerns critics is the different ways the House and Senate bills go about barring taxpayer financing of abortion coverage.

Both bills would create health insurance exchanges, basically a new marketplace for small businesses and individuals to buy affordable coverage with government subsidies if necessary. But the House bill with the Stupak language stipulates that women who want abortion coverage and a government subsidized health plan must buy a separate rider for the abortion coverage. The Senate bill with the Nelson language says an insurance plan in the exchange can offer abortion coverage, but a woman who wants it must pay for that element of the coverage by a separate check that goes into a separate account.

As Jost writes: “Concern has been expressed that plans might use accounting practices that, despite this oversight, allow them to subsidize abortion coverage from federal funds, but if they want to do this for some reason, they could also do it under the House bill. Requiring a separate abortion policy rather than a separate premium is an administrative technicality. It merely requires one more piece of paper.”

(In every exchange there must always be at least one plan that does not offer abortion coverage so those with moral objections, or the vast majority of Americans who are not women of child-bearing age, do not have to pay for abortion coverage they won’t use, or to effectively subsidize someone else’s abortion coverage. Health care economists expect such abortion-free plans will predominate because they are the most attractive to most customers.)

Isn’t there a compulsory “abortion tax” in the Senate plan for all who get subsidized coverage in the exchanges? No — even though many critics, including Stupak himself, have alleged that there is such a mandatory fee. ABC’s Jonathan Karl recently debunked this claim, though it still makes the rounds. The reality is only those who elect to choose a policy that includes abortion would have to pay the separate fee, and that is designed to keep federal dollars from potentially paying for abortions.

Other frequently heard objections to the Senate bill are that it does not preserve conscience protections for individuals or health care institutions (such as Catholic hospitals) that oppose providing abortions, but even the Catholic bishops acknowledge that charge is not true and those protections are the same as they always have been, and are equal in both the House and Senate versions.

In addition, the Senate bill includes a number of provisions pleasing to pro-lifers that the House bill does not.

For example, it includes key elements of the Pregnant Women’s Support Act that have long been sought by abortion foes: One is to appropriate $250 million over 10 years to create a federal Pregnancy Assistance Fund, which will provide assistance to pregnant and parenting teenagers and college students, as well as pregnant victims of domestic violence; another Senate provision not in the House bill would increase federal financing for adoption by $1.2 billion over the next two years.

The Senate bill also explicitly allows states to bar any policies in the federally created insurance exchanges from providing abortion coverage. So Utah or Mississippi or any other state could simply pass a law barring all plans in the exchanges from covering abortion. The House bill does not allow states to do that.

So the final verdict is that the Senate health care reform bill does not pay for or promote abortion, and it will arguably reduce abortions as well as providing good, affordable health care to millions of women and children who now go without — and suffer for it.

So, in essence, Stupak is not only blocking reform just for his own political power, versus real pro-life belief, he’s hurting his party and constituents, too. 

What a ripe time for a primary opponent!

Rep. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democrat from Michigan who has made legislative language over abortion funding a flashpoint in the debate over health care reform, is now facing a primary challenger from the left. Connie Saltonstall, a former Charlevoix County commissioner and retired businesswoman from Charlevoix, Mich. who announced her primary challenge Tuesday.

“The main issue is he was willing to sacrifice health care reform because of abortion funding,” Saltonstall told CNN. “He’s been my congressman for many years. I have compromised voting for him because of his position on choice. Health care and choice are two issues I am especially concerned about.”

Saltonstall also says she will continue her campaign regardless of the final abortion language in the health care bill, or Stupak’s vote.

“The people in our district lost trust in him. At dinners, he did powerpoint presentations on health care telling us he was going to introduce amendments, but telling us he would support health care regardless of the amendment. But then when the amendment passed, at his press conference he stated if his amendment language was not included, he would take the bill down. He has continued to say he would not vote for the health care bill unless his language was put in,” she explained.

You can learn more about Stupak’s challenger in her interview with Jodi Jacobson, RH RealityCheck’s Editor-in-Chief.

Mini-Roundup: Nothing says “SPRING BREAK!” like the Truth Truck.  Those guys really know how to celebrate!  They’d be better off if they brought some of the new condoms with them.

March 11, 2010

Abortion bill amended, clears House committee – Daily Mail – Charleston

Stupak, Other House Dems, Vow To Kill Healthcare Bill Over Abortion Language – Personal Liberty Digest

A drive to fight abortion – San Jose Mercury News

The Senate Bill Funds Abortions? Nope, and It’s More Pro-Life Than the House … -Politics Daily

Lira Hospital runs out of contraceptives – New Vision

People get lack of Family Planning Program Information – BeritaJakarta.com

Steps toward a healthy community – Homer News

Preventing Teen Pregnancy – WJBF-TV

Birth center set to open in area – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

High C-section rate spurs call for change – Detroit Free Press

Reality of avoidable maternal mortality is so hard to bear – The Herald

Blacks New Best Frenemy: The Antiabortionists… – Eurweb.com

Isabella county woman charged with failing to disclose her HIV-positive status … – Michigan Messenger

42 Million Condoms Being Sent to South Africa for World Cup – MyFox Spokane

Revamped Female Condom Gets Promotional Push – AOL News

A Better Female Condom – Newsweek

March 10, 2010

No compromise seen on health care abortion battle – Washington Examiner

Deliberations are next for jury in 2 Mich. deaths – 9&10 News

State Senate passes abortion bills – Tulsa World

Women’s Reproductive Rights: An Update – The Journal

Lawmakers look for a quick buck with sponsored license plates – Tampabay.com

Stupak facing primary challenger over abortion funding – CNN Political Ticker

Tom Cruise’s Religion in the Spotlight Over Forced Abortion Allegations – Lifesite

House Judiciary advances abortion bill with changes – Charleston Gazette

Supporters of Georgia bill: Abortion providers are racist – MiamiHerald.com

Utah law potentially endangers mothers’ rights – RU Daily Targum

A View of Abortion From Three Eras – New York Times

Mitt Romney’s Abortion Stance: ‘I Never Really Called Myself Pro-Choice’ – Huffington Post

Divisiveness Of Abortion Impedes Health Care Plan – WBUR

Powerful Catholic Quietly Shaping Abortion, Health Bill Debate – NPR

Santorum makes pitch for Iowa evangelical voters – The Associated Press

New Utah Law Holds Women Criminally Liable for Illegal Abortions – AOL News

Program pays addicts to use birth control – Honolulu Star-Bulletin

MYANMAR: Abortion a leading cause of maternal death – IRINnews.org

Feminomics: Pro-Life Atlanta’s Big Lie to Poor and Minority Women – Huffington Post

Woman conceives despite family planning surgery – Times of India

Lawmakers delay health care conscience bill – CNBC

Statement by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the United … – United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

President Clinton Defends Family Planning Abroad, Says Women In Developing … – Talk Radio News Service

Planned Parenthood presses Colorado lawmakers to support maternity coverage – The Colorado Independent

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  • concernedmom

    The November elections. Finally, voters will have a chance to REALLY PROVE how disgusted they are with their Representatives in Congress. Time to TAKE BACK America! From what the results in Massachusetts indicate, those who are experiencing their own “universal health care” aren’t exactly boasting how great it is! If the only way to start over & write a brand new BI PARTISAN Heathcare Bill is by Stupak & a dozen others who back him up refusing to vote for the Bill as it stands, then that’s fine. Last I heard, there are TWO parties ruling in a Democracy of the United States, isn’t there? Let’s come together & get both Parties on board, for something this HUGE that’s going to affect EVERY citizen??!

  • edward-craig

    I would prefer an up or down vote as the first business addressed by the next congress because the election this fall must address this issue when it goes unresolved this summer.