Groups on both sides of abortion issue revived in Senate reform fight
Published on November 24, 2009 at 9:41 AM
The Wall Street Journal
reports that abortion-rights groups are mobilizing to keep a provision that would toughen abortion restrictions out of a Senate health care reform bill. "Activists hope to flood Washington to rally and lobby on Dec. 2, during the week that Senate floor debate begins." Ads are running to criticize the restrictions and a new coalition — the Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak — is being formed, The Journal reports. In the House, "an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) stipulated that the bill's publicly run health-insurance plan couldn't cover abortions. It also forbids anyone who receives a federal health subsidy under the bill from buying an insurance policy -- even mostly with their own money -- that covers abortion. People would be allowed to purchase a rider covering abortion with their own money, however. Abortion riders are available in only a handful of states."
"Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah.) is expected to offer an amendment similar to Mr. Stupak's. 'The sanctity of life is not an issue that can be traded away for political expediency,' Mr. Hatch said recently on the Senate floor." The amendment will need 51 votes to pass, but "just two senators in the 60-member Democratic caucus are considered strongly antiabortion: Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania" (Bendavid, 11/24). The New York Times
: "But the practical stakes for abortion are in some ways quite narrow. No one in the debate proposes adding or removing restrictions on the procedure itself. And leaders of both parties say their goal is to avoid using federal tax money to pay for abortion while subsidizing insurance coverage." Still, the controversy has galvanized lobbying campaigns on abortion. But, antiabortion groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List are busy lobbying for more restrictive abortion language in the Senate bill and sponsoring "automated phone campaigns in pivotal states and spending more than $130,000 on an advertising campaign aimed at Senator Harry Reid
, the Democratic leader, in Nevada, his home state" (Kirkpatrick, 11/24). Politico
reports that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is looking for a senator willing to sponsor an abortion restrictions amendment in the Senate. Among those mentioned is Casey, but he is also considering "broadening any amendment he might offer to create stronger support systems for women coping with unexpected pregnancies, which could appeal to more senators" (Cummings, 11/23). Politico
reports in a separate story that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Monday that there's "'no hypocrisy' in RNC staffers getting abortion coverage from their insurer." Politico reported earlier that the RNC's health plan through the insurer Cigna has covered abortion since 1991 even though the party's platform has generally opposed abortion rights (Barr, 11/23).