Pro-Choice Caucus Democrats ‘Furious’ Over Abortion Amendment

Posted November 7, 2009 at 12:12pm

Democrats supporting abortion rights said Saturday they were “furious— that the House will consider an amendment to the health care overhaul that would ban insurance plans funded in part by federal subsidies from covering the procedure.

“The Pro-Choice Caucus is furious and is going to do everything we can to defeat the Stupak amendment,— said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), adding that the pro-abortion-rights Members will reach out to like-minded Republicans as well as Democrats to try to defeat it. DeGette said the amendment was probably the biggest limitation on a woman’s right to have an abortion that she has seen in her career.

“This happened last night in the dead of night,— she said.

But Democratic leaders were counting on the amendment to deliver key votes for the final bill and noted that the Catholic bishops had endorsed the bill as a result.

The existing legislation prohibits federal funding of abortions but allows insurance plans, including at least one version of the public insurance option, to cover abortions. That coverage would have to be paid for by premiums, not by subsidies, but the Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), rejected that language as insufficient.

Instead, anyone entering the exchange who is eligible for a subsidy will not be able to choose a plan that covers abortions. They would have to use supplemental abortion insurance instead.

DeGette held out hope that the amendment could be defeated, noting that an attempt to prevent Washington, D.C., from providing its own funding for abortions had been defeated on an appropriations bill previously.

And she complained that Stupak had originally said he would vote against the rule for the bill if he didn’t get a vote, but when the Pro-Choice Caucus Democrats had successfully whipped enough votes for the rule, Stupak then threatened to vote against the bill as well. Passage of the bill is dicey enough that Democratic leaders had to cave.

Pelosi is “furious too,— DeGette said.

DeGette also warned that there is a risk that some Pro-Choice Caucus Democrats could vote against the bill if the Stupak amendment passes but said people like herself don’t want to bring down the whole bill.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she would vote against a future conference report that included the Stupak language but would not try to kill the bill today if the amendment passes.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said enough Members said that they would vote against the health care package unless the Catholic bishops endorsed it that they had to allow the amendment.

The Catholic bishops have since endorsed the bill conditioned on the Stupak amendment. They also are strongly opposing a potential Republican effort to outlaw illegal immigrants from buying health insurance with their own money.

Waxman said he would vote against the Stupak amendment but assumes it will pass. And he said he hopes people don’t vote against the final bill regardless.

“We’ve all got to vote for final passage,— he said. “This bill is too important. We’ve got to pass it.—