(Photo: AP Images / Alex Brandon)
Celebration over the Stupak amendment in the House health care bill was cut short this week as pro-life supporters fear the language could be removed.
Abortion rights supporters, including House lawmakers, have threatened to pull their support from the health care bill if language such as the Stupak amendment remains in the final version.
The Stupak amendment, introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), bars the use of federal funding for “any health plan [public or private] that includes coverage of abortion,” except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the woman’s life.
“The most important part of health care reform to us has been the guarantee that the president made that no one would lose their benefits as a result, and the Stupak amendment undercuts that promise,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards to Politico. “I think cooler heads will prevail in the Senate.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan used stronger words, saying that the group will not support health reform with “this kind of language in it.” Keenan also said the group is willing to work against the final bill if it contained language that restricts abortion coverage.
“We are prepared to stop at nothing,” she said.
Meanwhile, abortion rights supporters in the House circulated a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi threatening to vote against the bill if the final version contained language similar to the Stupak amendment. As of early Monday, already some 40 lawmakers had signed the letter.
“I, along with the other pro-choice members in the House, intend to push very hard to ensure that language is not included in the final conference product,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), according to The Associated Press.
Schultz had also told MSNBC, “I am confident that when it (the health care bill) comes back from the conference committee that the language won’t be there.”
Given the intense pressure pro-choice supporters plan to put on Senators, pro-life groups are urging Americans to contact their representatives to tell them to support restrictions on federal funding for abortions in the health care bill.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, predicts a “terrific battle” will take place in the Senate over abortion coverage. However, “in the end, the outcome is going to depend upon what input senators are getting from their constituents,” Johnson told OneNewsNow.
But pro-life supporters can be a bit hopeful about a pro-life provision in the health care bill given the small group of Democrats that have already vowed to support the Stupak amendment or similar language in the health care bill.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday that he will not vote for a bill unless it clearly bars federal funding for abortion.
“I want to make sure something comparable…is in there,” Nelson said, according to AP.
Stupak, for his part, has warned lawmakers in the Senate and conference committee to leave his amendment alone.
“We are in contact with senators to make sure our language holds,” Stupak told the Detroit News. “The other side is playing with fire.”
On Saturday, after the House vote, Stupak had commented: “We won because [the Democrats] need us. If they are going to summarily dismiss us by taking the pen to that language, there will be hell to pay. I don’t say it as a threat, but if they double-cross us, there will be 40 people who don’t vote with them the next time they need us – and that could be the final version of this bill.”
President Obama in an ABC News interview Monday, however, seemed uneasy with the Stupak amendment. He said he wanted to adjust the language so that “neither side feels that it’s being betrayed.”
“I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test – that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we’re not restricting women’s insurance choices,” Obama said in the interview.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Christian groups have vowed to “remain vigilant” throughout the health care bill process to make sure that no federal funds are used to pay for elective abortions.