Pro-Life Dems Win a Big Victory

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The deal was cut verrrrry late last night, so maybe the news hasn’t gotten out everywhere. When Obama arrived on the Hill to rally House Democrats to pass health reform around 11:30 this morning, his motorcade passed anti-abortion activists protesting outside with “Kill the bill!” “Kill the Pelosi bill!” signs. Yet just a few hours earlier, the Democratic leadership decided to allow pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak to offer his abortion amendment for a straight up-or-down vote on the full House floor, a huge concession and perhaps the only way to pave the way to pass health reform in the House.

The Stupak amendment is a full-out ban on abortion coverage in the public exchange. In addition to language barring direct funding of abortion–which was already included in the bill as part of the Capps amendment that passed the committee this summer–Stupak would prevent private insurance plans that cover abortion from receiving subsidies if they participate in the exchange. Supporters of the Stupak amendment argue it simply continues the status quo and they bill it as the Hyde amendment for health reform. But that’s not true. It’s only half of Hyde amendment language, the half that says no funding without the half that allows exceptions for using other funds (like state funds) to cover abortion procedures.

The amendment will likely pass–narrowly–with Republican members supporting it (are there no pro-choice Republicans left in the House?) and as many as 40 pro-life Democrats joining them. Stupak and his supporters are¬†jubilant,¬†and Republicans are crowing. One top GOP aide told CBN’s David Brody that if the amendment passes, “liberal Democrats will just have to swallow if they want to pass the overall bill.” That’s true, and pro-choice leaders are already talking about waiting for the conference committee to strip out the Stupak language.

But it seems to me that as much as this is not an outcome Pelosi wanted, the deal also calls the bluff of many Republicans and conservatives who held up abortion coverage as their main reason for opposing health reform. Even if the final bill that House members vote on later tonight includes the Stupak language, does anyone really expect that Republicans will support it? So far only one GOP congressman is saying that he will vote for the final bill if Stupak’s amendment passes. So maybe Republicans are rooting for health reform to crash and burn with no support from Republicans and pro-choice Democrats pulling their support as well. But I don’t see how that puts them in a sympathetic position.

More on the backstory of how the deal came about and how Democratic leaders let things get to this point to come very soon…