First of all, please check this list of Representatives at RH Reality check. If one of them is your representative, please give them a call right now. They’ll be voting at any time now, so don’t wait.
House Democratic leaders agreed Friday night to settle an impasse over abortion by letting the entire House vote on a proposed solution, a risky decision that could determine the fate of their trillion-dollar overhaul of the nation’s health care system.
Under the agreement, anti-abortion Democrats will be permitted to offer an amendment on the House floor to the health-care overhaul bill. The amendment would prohibit a new government-run insurance plan created by the health-care bill from offering to cover abortion services, congressional sources said. It would also block people who received federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance from buying policies that offered coverage for abortions.
The deal clears the way for the dozens of Democratic lawmakers who oppose abortion to lend their support to the health care package, the most dramatic expansion of health coverage in more than 40 years. It also satisfies the demands of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had threatened to oppose the House bill.
If the amendment from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) passes, said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops conference, “we become enthusiastic advocates for moving forward with health care reform.”
The amendment is expected to pass with the combined support of more than 40 anti-abortion Democrats and virtually every House Republican. That likelihood meant that leaders of the much larger group of Democrats who support abortion rights were not happy to learn of the deal.
“There will be no abortion, not just with public funds, but with private funds under the public option, and that’s not acceptable,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
House leaders met with that bloc of Democrats late Friday to try to quell their frustration., but the agreement makes clear that they believe abortion-rights Democrats will find it difficult to vote against the health-care bill even with such a restriction attached to it.
According to Politico, “Female Democrats on the Rules Committee, including Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, left the room during consideration of the Stupak amendment and didn’t cast a vote.”
Keep in mind, even before this amendment, the House bill restricted abortion coverage. But it didn’t do enough to punish poor women, so that wasn’t good enough for either the Blue Dogs, the Republicans, or the Catholic Church.
If this amendment passes, it will mean that virtually all women with insurance through the exchange who find themselves in the unwanted and unexpected position of needing to terminate a pregnancy will not have coverage for the procedure. Abortion coverage will not be outlawed in this country. It will simply be tiered, reserved for those rich enough to afford insurance themselves or lucky enough to receive from their employers.
From USA Today (via Jack and Jill Politics):
Nearly 90% of private health insurance policies now offer abortion coverage, and almost half of women with private insurance have it. But women covered under the new system would have to find supplemental insurance or pay out of pocket for an unanticipated procedure that can cost from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on complexity. For anyone unable to afford it, this would amount to a de facto ban.
If the Stupak amendment passes, uninsured women who get health care through the public option will have to pay out-of-pocket to get an abortion. And even if a woman uses her own money to buy an insurance plan from a private company through the exchange, she won’t be able to get a plan that covers abortion. […]
The “exchanges” discussed there are health insurance exchanges, which are marketplaces where people will be able to purchase insurance. Since insurance companies will have to compete against one another and the public option. the exchanges will provide better insurance plans at lower costs. They’re designed to help those who don’t have insurance or who have inadequate insurance but can’t afford better.
Because many small employers are expected to switch to using the exchanges, this means that women who currently have abortion coverage through their small employer, will have their coverage replaced with insurance that doesn’t cover abortion.
Ezra also points out, even if (as now seems likely) this amendment is part of the bill the House passes, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be in the final legislation: “Even if it muscles into the House bill, it will also have to pass in the Senate, and then survive conference, before it becomes law.” That seems like a pretty thin reed of hope to me, but better than no hope at all.
I’ve been trying to find out if the Stupak Amendment contains exceptions for abortions necessary to prevent immediate threats to the life or health of the woman. I haven’t been able to find out, so far.