Anti-Choice Democrats Hold Up Healthcare BillS

House Democrats are pretty much ready to get started debating the monster healthcare reform bill, except for those conservatives who are trying to seize the opportunity to block more women's access to abortion.

Says The New York Times:

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a supporter of abortion rights, has little choice but to heed the concerns of members of her caucus who oppose abortion. As many as 40 House Democrats, a potentially decisive bloc, have threatened to oppose the bill without tighter restrictions on abortion.

This is why we can't have nice things, people. Under the bill as written, "health plans are neither required nor forbidden to cover abortions" and federal funds cannot be used for abortion. But that's not good enough for the numerous anti-choice Democrats we've gone and elected, so, as Lynn Harris put it at Salon, "Long story short, there's the Stupak amendment, which hardcore abortion opponents love, and there's the Ellsworth-DeLauro 'compromise' amendment, which everybody hates."

Timothy Noah at Slateexplains the Stupak amendment, which he characterizes as "a crowbar to pry abortion coverage from private health insurance plans offered in the exchange":

The Stupak amendment stated, "No funds authorized under this Act … may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan [italics mine] that includes coverage of abortion," with exceptions for rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's life. Stupak claims that all he was doing was repeating the language of the Hyde amendment, but the italicized language quoted above does not appear in the Hyde Amendment. (And besides, even if that were all Stupak was doing, his amendment eliminates the possibility that future repeal of the Hyde Amendment might liberate health reform from its prohibition.) "Stupak is basically saying you cannot even participate in the exchange unless your plan does not cover abortion," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the Los Angeles Times.

The Ellsworth-DeLauro "compromise," on the other hand, says that "if the public plan decides to cover abortion, it would have to hire private contractors to handle money that might be used for that purpose," according to The Times. Laurie Rubiner, Planned Parenthood's vice president for public policy, says the amendment will "tip the balance away from women's access to reproductive health care," while Douglas D. Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, calls it "a phony compromise" and "a money-laundering scheme." Common ground in the abortion debate, ladies and gentleman: This amendment sucks.

Furthermore, it's "an exercise in sophistry" according to a memo written by Harvard professor Laurence H. Tribe and quoted in the Times. Once more with feeling:

Under the House bill, he said, abortion services could be financed 'only by special private premiums that are segregated' from other money. Thus, he concluded, the House bill, "as it currently stands, does not authorize governmental funding of abortion."

But the important thing now is making sure the same thing is spelled out in even more ways, ideally making access to a legal medical procedure even more difficult — not, you know, passing a desperately needed bill. If they just went ahead and passed it as is, it might seem like we have a Democratic majority in Congress whose priority is the health of all Americans or something. Nobody wants that.

Abortion Deal in Health Bill Sets Off Haggling in Congress [NY Times]
"Do-or-die moment" for abortion coverage [Salon]
Don't Be Stupak
[Slate]