Anti-abortion activists believe that the sky is falling - and that haranguing lawmakers to spell out what's already established in the Hyde Amendment (which bans federal funding for abortion) is the only way to prop it back up.

Thing is, their efforts are working. CBS News reports:

Anti-abortion Democrats were circulating language to strengthen prohibitions in the bill against federal funding of abortion. The bill stipulates that people getting federal subsidies would have to use their own money to get abortions, but that division is not clear enough to satisfy some lawmakers. Lawmakers are considering language that would make a more straightforward declaration against use of federal funds for abortion.

On immigration, it's still not settled whether illegal immigrants would be allowed to shop for insurance within a new purchasing exchange. Some lawmakers say that even if they use their own money to buy private plans they would be getting a benefit from the federally established exchange. The White House does not want illegal immigrants to access the exchange, and the Senate bill would keep them out.


Oh wait, hold on - they screwed something up.

On immigration, it's still not settled whether illegal immigrants undocumented workers would be allowed to shop for insurance within a new purchasing exchange. Some lawmakers say that even if they use their own money to buy private plans they would be getting a benefit from the federally established exchange. The White House does not want illegal immigrants undocumented workers to access the exchange, and the Senate bill would keep them out.

Now, as many have pointed out before, keeping undocumented people from getting health insurance doesn't do much at all - just like the rest of us uninsured people, we wait until our problem is too bad to ignore and then go clog the halls of hospital emergency rooms. And it isn't as if this is a new problem - back in 2007, an article described some of the struggles hospitals had with meeting the qualifications for "emergency coverage":

Under a limited provision of Medicaid, the national health program for the poor, the federal government permits emergency coverage for illegal immigrants and other noncitizens. But the Bush administration has been more closely scrutinizing and increasingly denying state claims for federal payment for some emergency services, Medicaid experts said.


But we all know opposition to the health care bill isn't driven by a desire to help the most people - it's a way to advance an issue. And, as the Washington Post explains today, the anti-choice lobby has seized the moment:

Democratic leaders early this summer backed a provision that would allow people to use subsidies under the bill to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, but only funds from individual or employer health-care premiums could go toward paying for an abortion. Effectively, insurance companies would be tasked with segregating money from government payments from those coming from private sources, and only the latter could be used for abortion.

But Stupak and some Democrats, along with congressional Republicans, have criticized this provision as an accounting distinction. They say the federal subsidies and the private payments are combined for a person to buy a health plan; therefore, federal dollars are helping fund insurance plans that allow abortions. [...]

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed by 183 lawmakers who Stupak helped organize, a group of mainly Republicans wrote: "The U.S. government should not be in the business of promoting abortion as health care. Real health care is about saving and nurturing life, not about taking life."


Real health care is about saving and nurturing life? This from people who are trying to block others from getting a decent shot at coverage? I must have missed the white rabbit running by.

Even the Catholic Church is getting in on the action:

The issue is also causing headaches for the Catholic Church, where a long-standing opposition to abortion is running headlong into the church's equally long-standing support for a comprehensive health overhaul.

"I think in our files we have a letter from the bishops to Harry Truman urging comprehensive health care reform," says Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, referring to the unsuccessful mid-20th century fight in Congress to pass a health overhaul bill.

The Catholic Church is not just an advocate for health care, but also a major provider. "Our Catholic charities and Catholic hospitals outlets take care of millions of people," Doerflinger says. "I think it's been estimated that one-sixth of the people who go into a hospital every year are going into a Catholic hospital."

But so far, the church hasn't been able to support either the House or Senate versions of the health bills now being readied for floor votes because of their abortion language.

"We want health care reform very, very much, but we cannot do that over children's dead bodies, to put it most bluntly," he says. "There is a fundamental issue here about whether taking life should be treated the same way as supporting and healing life."


In other news, the GOP has managed to patch together some form of alternative healthcare bill, with a focus on cutting costs and adding less to the deficit. Guess how they did it?

"Our substitute aims at driving down costs," House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters Monday. "If you drive down costs, you can expand access."

Boehner hasn't released the full details of the bill but has said that it would make it easier to buy insurance across state lines, impose strict limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and allow individuals and small businesses to pool their resources to buy insurance as a group. That is designed to boost their purchasing power to help lower individual premiums. [...]

The Republican legislation won't end insurance industry practices that discriminate against high-risk individuals or provide tax credits to help the uninsured purchase coverage, even though both were included in rank-and-file GOP bills. [...]

"When I'm back home in Indiana, people aren't stopping me on the street, clamoring for universal coverage," Pence said. "They're stopping me on the street, saying that 30, 40, 50 percent increases in their premiums at their small businesses or their family farms are crushing the life out of families and enterprises and local communities."


So the solution is to increase competition by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines? Have these people ever dealt with a health care company? I can see the form letters now:

We regret to inform you that your claim has been denied. If you wish to appeal, you will need to come to our corporate headquarters conveniently located in Nulato, Alaska.

But still, I suppose this new tactic beats random foolishness from the Republicans:

"I believe the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room - this very room - and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill," said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.). "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."


And she's serious. Representative Foxx, where were you doing the PATRIOT Act? Or is giving up those freedoms cool because taxes aren't involved?

Sigh. Another day, another frustrating glimpse into the process of reforming our health care system.

House Dems' Health Reform Hurdles Dwindle [CBS News]
U.S. Rule Limits Emergency Care for Immigrants [New York Times]
Democrats' concerns over abortion may imperil health bill [Washington Post]
Abortion Language Creates Snag For Health Bill [NPR]
GOP health bill focuses on lower costs [Politico]
Virginia Foxx: Health Care Reform Greater Threat than Terrorism [CBS News]