Bart Stupak’s Demand: What It Would Mean

Democrats for Life is claiming that it now has the votes of 43 House Democrats against the House health care reform bill, unless it adopts the provisions it seeks barring the use of federal funds for abortion.

“[A]t last count, we have … commitments from about 43 members who said they would support Stupak and basically bring down the health care bill unless his amendment is offered,” DFL executive director Kristen Day told the conservative site

Day claimed that Stupak’s language would “apply the Hyde Amendment” to health care [barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions], though that has already been done through the Capps Amendment, which Stupak has called a “phony compromise.” Lois Capps, a California Democrat and author of the eponymous amendment, has already laid out exactly how her amendment incorporates Hyde.

Capps explains:

[U]nder my amendment no federal funds may be used to pay for abortions that are not allowed by current law (the Hyde Amendment, which makes exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman). The only funds that may be used to pay for other abortion services are from private funds generated by the policyholders’ premiums, whether the policyholder is covered by a private plan or the public option.

My amendment ensures that no doctor or hospital or even insurance plan can be required to participate in providing or covering abortion services. In fact, my amendment goes beyond current law in this regard. Currently, existing statute known as the “Weldon Amendment” prohibits the government from discriminating against health providers and insurance companies who refuse to perform or pay for abortions. My amendment extends that to ensure that no private insurance plan operating in the Exchange may discriminate against health providers who refuse to perform abortions.

My amendment also ensures that in each region of the country, there is at least one plan in the Health Exchange that offers abortions services but also one plan in the Health Exchange that does not offer abortion services. This actually gives consumers who object to participating in a plan that covers abortion and are getting coverage through the Exchange a choice of insurance coverage greater than what most Americans have in the current employer-based health insurance market. Today, nearly 90 percent of employer-sponsored private health insurance plans cover abortion services.

So what do Stupak et al. want? As Lois Uttley, co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, highlighted on Democracy Now yesterday:

But what he’s [President Obama’s] reflecting is a compromise that’s been agreed upon on Capitol Hill that the existing policies, the status quo on federal funding of abortion, would be maintained in this legislation. So, women who are on Medicaid, no federal funding would go towards abortion services for those women. There are some states, like New York, where state money is used to—and that would continue under this bill. What it would allow is women who buy private insurance policies through that exchange would be able to buy policies with abortion coverage in them.

And here’s the key issue that’s being debated right now in the House, and it’s a huge issue, is what if you’re a woman buying an insurance policy, a private policy in the exchange, and you need a public subsidy to afford it? Could you use that public money? The answer is no. The funds would have to be segregated. So the public subsidy would go in one pot, your private premium dollars would go in another pot, and only the private premium dollars could pay for the abortion coverage. Some anti-choice folks in the House, especially Representative Bart Stupak from Michigan, are trying to make this even worse—and Orrin Hatch in the Senate. They want to make abortion coverage into a rider that you would have to buy separately. Now, I would ask you, how many women would buy an abortion rider when they’re often used for unplanned pregnancies? Unplanned is the whole idea. So we think that would be a terrible step back, and we urge Speaker Pelosi to hold firm against any attempts to further erode abortion rights.

UPDATE: David Dayen at FireDogLake has questions about whether Stupak actually has the votes to bring down the reform bill.

UPDATE 2: Dana Goldstein at The Daily Beast explains how the House bill is more pro-life than pro-choice.

UPDATE 3: At TAPPED, Suzy Khimm reports that Stupak would only hold up the bill if his amendment wasn’t brought to the floor, but not if his amendment were brought to the floor and lost — much to the chagrin of conservatives. All still in flux.