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Stupak: abortion issue may kill health care bill in House

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak said during a TV interview Thursday he and 11 other House members who voted for that chamber’s health care bill in November will oppose the Senate version if it’s not changed to prohibit federal funding of abortion, and he even named the page numbers that need to be tweaked.

A defection by 12 representatives could be enough to kill the bill in the House, because it passed by a razor-thin margin of 220-215 last year. That bill included an amendment sponsored by Stupak that explicitly prohibited tax dollars from funding abortion coverage; the bill that passed the Senate in December has far weaker language.

Stupak made his comments one day after President Obama made another push to get health care reform going. Asked directly on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if he is prepared to take responsibility for seeing the bill defeated, Stupak, who is from Michigan, said “yes.”

“I’ve been catching it ever since last fall,” he said of his unpopularity among some Democrats. “Let’s face it, I want to see health care, but we’re not going to bypass some principles and beliefs that we feel strongly about.”

Stupak’s amendment in November had far more support than the bill itself, passing 240-194. But it wasn’t added to the Senate bill. Stupak urged viewers to read pages 2,069-2,078 of the Senate bill, where it lays out how abortions would be funded under the government-subsidized insurance plans.

“You will find in there the federal government would directly subsidize abortions, plus every enrollee in the Office of Personnel Management plan has to pay a minimum of $1 per month for reproductive rights, which includes abortion,” Stupak said.

Current federal policy prevents tax dollars from funding insurance plans that cover abortion. For instance, Medicaid is prohibited from covering elective abortions, as are insurance plans for federal employees. Congress’ own insurance plans, for instance, cannot by law cover elective abortions. That would change under the Senate bill, which would set up a segregation of funding that Stupak and other pro-lifers say is unacceptable.

Pro-lifers also are concerned about a provision in the Senate bill that would provide $7 billion for the nation’s 1,200-plus community health centers, some of which are operated by Planned Parenthood. Nothing in the Senate bill says the money would be prohibited from being used for abortions. President Obama’s proposal actually would increase to $11 million the amount given to community centers, which generally are used by the uninsured and underserved.

The much-debated Hyde Amendment — which prevents Medicaid from covering elective abortions — would not apply to the Senate bill.

Stupak pointed to eight areas in federal law that prevent tax dollars from funding abortions.

“Take any one of these eight, insert the language [into the health care bill], and we’ll be happy and we can support this legislation,” Stupak said. “We voted for health care before. I want to see health care passed. I agree with [Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius] — people are being priced out of the market. We must have health care. But, boy, there are some principles and beliefs that some of us are not going to pass.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Read the Senate bill at http://democrats.senate.gov/reform/patient-protection-affordable-care-act-as-passed.pdf.

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  • Michael Foust