Pelosi Aborts Stupak Negotiations

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The Associated Press is reporting that Democratic leaders have given up trying to work out a deal with Bart Stupak (and the Catholic bishops) regarding abortion restrictions in health reform legislation. That’s probably a good idea for a couple of reasons: 1) there’s no way to deal with abortion in reconciliation and GOP Senators now say they wouldn’t support an effort to add an abortion fix in the Senate anyway; and 2) it remains unclear exactly how many other pro-life Democrats are even in the Stupak camp of switching their “yes” votes to “no” because of this issue (the best estimates now look like there are a half dozen willing to switch).

Of course, because the negotiations with Stupak this week were actually negotiations with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, this decision by the Democratic leadership does mean that the bishops will probably end up opposing health reform. That puts some Catholic Democrats in an uncomfortable position, but not many of them seem to be letting the bishops’ opposition drive their votes. If that opposition stands and yet health reform passes anyway, it would reflect an interesting weakening of the bishops’ influence.

At the same time, a group of 25 pro-life religious leaders–including evangelicals Joel Hunter and Ron Sider, as well as Francis Doyle, the former associate general secretary of the USCCB–signed a letter released yesterday in support of the Senate version’s treatment of abortion funding and noting “concern about the lack of clear and accurate information regarding abortion provisions in the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009.” [Complete text of the letter follows below.] These Catholic and evangelical leaders also praise several aspects of the Senate bill for reflecting pro-life concerns.

That’s an argument David Gibson at Politics Daily has also made in a brilliant and incredibly useful analysis of what the Senate abortion provisions would–and, importantly, would not–do. If you’re confused about any of the rhetoric that has flown back and forth in the past week, Gibson’s analysis is an invaluable must-read. Among other things, he makes the point that because the Senate bill includes provisions to expand adoption tax credits and fund programs that support pregnant women that are not in the House version, it would actually do more to lower abortion rates.

Complete text and signatories of religious leaders’ letter:

Dear Member of Congress,

As Christians committed to a consistent ethic of life, and deeply concerned with the health and well-being of all people, we want to see health care reform enacted. Our nation has a rare and historic opportunity to expand coverage to tens of millions of people, make coverage more affordable for all families, and crack down on many of the most harmful practices of the health insurance industry.

We are writing because of our concern about the lack of clear and accurate information regarding abortion provisions in the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009.

Reforming our health care system is necessarily complex, and the provisions related to abortion, or any other issue, require careful examination of the facts as they exist in the legislative language. We believe that the provisions below provide extensive evidence that longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion have been maintained. Furthermore, this bill provides new and important supports for vulnerable pregnant women.

Following is a comprehensive factual listing of all provisions related to abortion and positive supports for pregnant women in HR 3590, along with specific page references.

Abortion-Related Provisions Included in the Senate-Approved Health Care Reform Bill “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (HR 3590 EAS/PP)

  • Prohibits the Secretary of HHS from requiring the coverage of any abortion services as part of the essential health benefits for any qualified health plan offered in a state insurance Exchange (pg. 2070);
  • Allows the insurance company to decide whether or not to include coverage of abortion services, including the Hyde abortion exceptions, in a qualified health insurance plan offered in a state insurance Exchange (pg. 2070);
  • Prohibits insurance companies from using federal funds, including federal tax credits and cost-sharing assistance, to pay for abortion services except for those services allowable under the Hyde amendment (pg. 2071);
  • Requires an insurance company that chooses to offer a plan in a State Exchange with abortion coverage, beyond the Hyde abortion exceptions, to collect a separate second premium payment from each enrollee for the cost of the abortion coverage (pgs. 2071-2072 & 2074-2075);
  • Requires the insurance company to deposit all separate payments into a separate account that consists solely of abortion premium payments and that it is used exclusively to pay for such services (pgs. 2072-2074);
  • Requires the state health insurance commissioners to ensure that insurance companies comply with  these requirements in accordance with guidance and accounting standards set by the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office (pg. 2075);
  • Requires insurance companies that offer general abortion coverage as part of a qualified health plan to provide a notice of coverage in the summary of benefits and coverage explanation (pg. 2076);
  • Allows states to pass a law prohibiting the inclusion of abortion coverage in plans offered in a state health insurance Exchange (pg. 2069);
  • Requires the director of the Office of Public Management to ensure that there is at least one private, multi-state qualified health plan offered in each state insurance Exchange that does not provide coverage of abortion services beyond the Hyde exceptions (pgs. 2087-2088);
  • Prohibits insurance companies offering qualified health plans from discriminating against any individual health care provider or health care facility because of its unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions (pg. 2076);
  • Prohibits the preemption of state laws regarding abortion (pg. 2077);
  • Maintains current Federal laws relative to conscience protection; willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion (pg. 2077);
  • Establishes and provides $250 million for programs to support vulnerable pregnant women (pgs. 2170-2173); and
  • Increases the adoption tax credit and makes it refundable so that lower income families can access the tax credit (pgs 2400-2407).

We are now at a critical moment in the history of our country. More than 30 million Americans may finally gain access to a health care system that is affordable — providing families, children and seniors with fundamental care that is essential to human dignity. We respectfully ask that you make an informed decision about this legislation based on careful deliberation guided by facts.


Morna Murray, President, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

Stephen F. Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church

Dr. David P. Gushee, Chair, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

David O’Brien, Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Francis Xavier Doyle, Former Associate General Secretary, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Jean Stokan, Director, Institute Justice Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Lisa Cahill, Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D., President, Catholic Theological Society of America

David DeCosse, Director of Campus Ethics Programs, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University

Nicholas P. Cafardi, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law

Dennis M. Doyle, Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Professor of Catholic Theology, Fordham University

Richard Gaillardetz, Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Toledo

Vincent J. Miller, Religious Studies Professor, University of Dayton

Alex Mikulich, Research Fellow, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University

Sandra A. Yocum, Ph.D., Chair of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA

Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Cheryl Bridges Johns, Professor of Christian Formation & Discipleship, Pentecostal Theological Seminary

Brian McLaren, Author, Speaker and Founding Pastor, Cedar Ridge Community Church

Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary

Lisa Sharon Harper, Executive Director, NY Faith & Justice, Author, Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat

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