Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is unsatisfied with the abortion language in the Senate health care reform package negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), adding to the list of contentious issues Democratic leaders must resolve in conference committee if they hope to send legislation to President Barack Obama before next year’s State of the Union address.
Stupak, who opposes abortion rights, inserted an amendment into the House health care reform bill that would explicitly prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for abortions under the new law. House Democratic leaders were forced to accept the amendment or risk losing the votes of several moderate Democrats they needed to pass the bill.
Nelson, who vowed to filibuster the Senate bill if it did not include language similar to the Stupak amendment, announced Saturday that he had accepted a compromise that would allow states to decide whether to include health plans in their insurance exchange programs that included coverage for abortions. Nelson had tried for tougher language, but his amendment failed in a floor vote last week.
Garnering Stupak’s blessing could have inoculated Nelson from criticism from anti-abortion groups, as well as taken at least one issue off the table in conference. The public insurance option must also be resolved — the House bill includes one and the Senate bill does not.
Stupak issued a statement on his official Web site saying: “While I appreciate the efforts of all the parties involved, especially Senator Ben Nelson, the Senate abortion language is not acceptable. I will continue to work with my colleagues on this issue as the process moves forward.
“A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.
“Further, the segregation of funds to pay for abortion is another departure from current policy prohibiting federal subsidy of abortion coverage.
—While I and many other pro-life Democratic House members wish to see health care coverage for all Americans, the proposed Senate language is unacceptable. I look forward to working with members of the House, Senate and the Obama Administration to find common ground on this issue and draft language that guarantees continuation of current law of no public funding for abortion.—