All talk of death panels has petered out. Sarah Palin and her "conservative" ilk have largely remained silent. The issue concerning the Stupak-Pitts amendment has dominated the news cycle, leaving Democrats and their constituents to battle it out.
As activists continue to drum up support to keep the amendment out of the final bill, the rapid splintering of support demonstrates how deeply the worth and value of a progressive reproductive rights platform has been devalued over the years. Politicians have skillfully learned to speak to both belief systems by leaving their words intentionally vague, while knowing that those who want to believe will read into the words and assume a certain position. Politico writes:
By playing down divisions over abortion and emphasizing shared goals - such as reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in the United States - members of the president's party have sought to blur the lines of one of the country's most furious and enduring debates.
"They're looking for an easy way out. And there is no easy way out when it comes to right or wrong or true or false," said former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, an abortion opponent who served as ambassador to the Vatican during the Clinton administration. "On some of these issues, there's just no compromise."
The House health care bill wasn't supposed to become a referendum on abortion rights. But Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, reshaped the legislative landscape when he offered an amendment restricting the sale of insurance policies covering abortion through the proposed national health insurance exchange - or to women who receive health care subsidies from the federal government.
The Administration continues to try to hedge its bets, meeting with various groups in hopes of hashing out a compromise. Still, there is the sense that many rank-and-file Democrats feel that this trade is fair.
Kate Michelman (former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America) and Frances Kissling (former president of Catholics for Choice) outline why this is problematic in an op-ed in today's New York Times:
Many House members who support abortion rights decided reluctantly to accept this ban, which is embodied in the Stupak-Pitts amendment. They say the tradeoff was necessary to advance the right to guaranteed health care. They say they will fight another day for a woman's right to choose.
Perhaps. But they can't ignore the underlying shift that has taken place in recent years. The Democratic majority has abandoned its platform and subordinated women's health to short-term political success. In doing so, these so-called friends of women's rights have arguably done more to undermine reproductive rights than some of abortion's staunchest foes. That Senate Democrats are poised to allow similar anti-abortion language in their bill simply underscores the degree of the damage that has been done.
We are coming close to the point where we are past having faith, and rapidly approaching broken trust. Call it the Wimpy principle. J. Wellingon Wimpy was a character in the old Popeye's cartoon, whose famous line was "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." However, Wimpy was focused on hamburgers, and acquiring as many as possible. When Tuesday rolled around, Wimpy managed to vanish, having never intended to repay the debt.
A coalition fails when members start to wonder when it will be their turn to benefit. And as Democrats went out trying to acquire votes, they started making Tuesday promises. They spoke to as many constituencies as they could find, courting women, racial minorities, gay and lesbian voters by saying they cared about their issues and were willing to fight for their needs - if those people elected them.
So they did, and now they sit and wait.
The Democratic Wimpys these people vote for every few years would do well to remember they have continued to buying them hamburgers, year after year. And they will continue to do so - after the Dems pay what they owe.
'No easy way out' for Democrats on abortion [Politico]
Rahm, Liberal Women's Groups, Have 'Frank Exchange' on Anti-Abortion Amendment [ABC News]
J. Wellington Wimpy [Wikipedia]