Abortion funding ban may stand in Health Care Reform bill

Columnist E.J. Dionne is a liberal Democrat and a Catholic. He says that the ban on abortion funding in both the public and the private insurance companies that was added to the health care reform bill may stand, and if it does, it would be worth it:

For some years, Democrats have denounced parodies that cast their party as utterly closed to the views of those who oppose abortion. Last weekend, Democrats proved conclusively that they are, indeed, a big tent — and many in the ranks are furious.

From the outraged comments of the abortion-rights movement, you'd think that Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment to the House version of the health-care bill would all but overturn Roe v. Wade.

No, it wouldn't. The Michigan Democrat's measure — passed 240 to 194, with 64 Democrats voting yes — would prohibit abortion coverage in the public option and bar any federal subsidies for plans that included abortion purchased on the new insurance exchanges.

Stupak argues that the federal government has stayed out of the business of financing abortion since passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976 and that none of the policies available on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program covers elective abortion. The structures that reform would create, he says, should carry the same restrictions, which do not apply in cases involving rape or incest or when a mother's life is in danger.

Supporters of abortion rights counter that, at the very least, individuals who pay part of the cost of their policies should be allowed to choose abortion coverage.

Whatever else is true, Stupak's amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies — although the institute has cautioned that the proportion of women whose abortions were covered by insurance could be higher because the figure did not include those "who obtain reimbursement from their insurance company themselves." . . . .

But a key group of Democrats who supported the rest of the House bill (roughly 10 by the best count I have been able to get) was still not satisfied, partly because the Roman Catholic bishops were not satisfied. These Democrats turned out to be essential on a bill that ultimately passed by five votes.

Last Friday night, Stupak put forward a final compromise to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would have prohibited abortion coverage in the public plan but would have allowed an annual vote on the abortion ban for the private plans. Pro-choice Democrats rejected this, and the stronger version of Stupak's proposal then passed.

What happens now? Democratic supporters of abortion rights need to accept that their House majority depends on a large cadre of antiabortion colleagues. They can denounce that reality or they can learn to live with it. . . .

And if the Senate forces a change in the Stupak language, one obvious approach would involve a ban on abortion in the public plan — if such an option survives — and the application of Ellsworth's rules to the private policies sold in the insurance exchange. The alternative would be Stupak's original compromise offer to Pelosi. There are not many other options.

The truth is that even with the Stupak restrictions, health-care reform would leave millions of Americans far better off than they are now — including millions of women. This skirmish over abortion cannot be allowed to destroy the opportunity to extend coverage to 35 million Americans. Killing health-care reform would be bad for choice — and very bad for the right to life.

So he says. At any rate, it’s time to give the small, hard-pressed, marginalized pro-life Democrats some credit.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    My prayer is that this anti-abortion dems can work in their party so that lpro-ife becomes its natural stance.

  • Joe

    My prayer is that this anti-abortion dems can work in their party so that lpro-ife becomes its natural stance.

  • Matthew 25

    This is a prime example of how ‘pro life’ is a farce and a sham. Mulitudes of Americans die each year from lack of adequate health care. Who speaks for them? I’m convinced that Christ walked out of the American church long, long ago.

  • Matthew 25

    This is a prime example of how ‘pro life’ is a farce and a sham. Mulitudes of Americans die each year from lack of adequate health care. Who speaks for them? I’m convinced that Christ walked out of the American church long, long ago.

  • DonS

    The Democratic party is only a “big tent” party now because it is so big. In other words, to attain the large electoral majorities it now enjoys in the House and Senate, it had to win a lot of normally Republican-leaning districts, using candidates who, necessarily, need to reflect the views of their more conservative constituencies. None of these pro-life Democrats wield official power in the Democratic leadership, and post-vote interviews indicate that many of the more liberal Democrats voted for the bill with the Stupak amendment to get it passed, and with the assumption that the Stupak amendment will be watered down or stripped out before final bill passage later, in conference.

    Even if the Stupak amendment survived a final passage of a health care bill, and was signed into law by Obama, I suspect it would be immediately challenged in court by pro-abortion forces, on the basis that the extension of the current prohibition of the public funding of abortions to include private insurance company funds is an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right of women to obtain an abortion. As ludicrous as that argument would be, I think it would have an excellent chance of prevailing, at least in the more liberal lower federal courts, such as the 9th Circuit. At the Supreme Court level, it would be a 5-4 decision. I don’t know which way that would cut.

    So, bottom line, don’t support a monstrously awful federalization of health care to gain this pro-life fig leaf.

  • DonS

    The Democratic party is only a “big tent” party now because it is so big. In other words, to attain the large electoral majorities it now enjoys in the House and Senate, it had to win a lot of normally Republican-leaning districts, using candidates who, necessarily, need to reflect the views of their more conservative constituencies. None of these pro-life Democrats wield official power in the Democratic leadership, and post-vote interviews indicate that many of the more liberal Democrats voted for the bill with the Stupak amendment to get it passed, and with the assumption that the Stupak amendment will be watered down or stripped out before final bill passage later, in conference.

    Even if the Stupak amendment survived a final passage of a health care bill, and was signed into law by Obama, I suspect it would be immediately challenged in court by pro-abortion forces, on the basis that the extension of the current prohibition of the public funding of abortions to include private insurance company funds is an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right of women to obtain an abortion. As ludicrous as that argument would be, I think it would have an excellent chance of prevailing, at least in the more liberal lower federal courts, such as the 9th Circuit. At the Supreme Court level, it would be a 5-4 decision. I don’t know which way that would cut.

    So, bottom line, don’t support a monstrously awful federalization of health care to gain this pro-life fig leaf.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X