Wednesday, November 11, 2009

David Rogers: Stupak amendment to health care bill smart for Dems

health insurance

It would be political suicide to admit this if he truly felt this way, but President Obama should be grateful Congress last weekend passed the universal health care bill as it did, with limits on funding for abortion, even if that provision has raised ire among some members of his party.

After months of wrangling that saw massive demonstrations over the summer, Congress last weekend narrowly passed the estimated $1.1 trillion health care bill that would ensure that up to 96 percent of Americans will have health insurance. Many decried the bill’s public option that allowed Americans the choice of a government-backed insurance plan, arguing that it would enable the government to pick and choose what kind of treatment citizens would receive.

Now pressure is on the Senate to pass its own health care bill before the end of the year.

In the hours before Congress passed the bill, it wasn’t the public option portion of the bill that caused the greatest furor. It was the inclusion of the Stupak amendment that “prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion under the public health insurance option and prohibits the use of federal affordability credits to purchase a health insurance policy that covers abortion,” according to Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

The amendment, the representative went on to say, merely codifies or organizes the Hyde amendment, which already forbids the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. That didn’t sit well with women’s groups and pro-choice advocates who expressed concern that getting an abortion has been made harder. Anyone who receives a federal health care subsidy would automatically be at risk of having their insurance company stop covering abortions, it has been argued.

Could that happen? Unfortunately, yes. Insurers could ultimately decide that it’s in their financial best interests to not include abortions as part of their health plans. Add to that the ban in federal money for abortions and thousands of women may be left with little choice or no choice at all about whether to carry a child to term. But for now, it’s only a possibility.

For better or worse, the health care bill that millions of Americans desperately need right now probably wouldn’t have passed had the Stupak amendment not been included. The bill only passed by 10 votes and saw many Democrats vote against it.

Many conservative Democrats were uneasy with approving a bill that would essentially use taxpayer money to help pay for abortions. It’s understandable. Millions of people across the political spectrum believe abortion is murder, and just the thought of taxpayer money going towards them is discouraging, if not downright disgusting.

If Obama or the Democratic Party wanted to keep many of those millions from jumping ship to a Republican candidate in 2012 or in next year’s Congressional or Senate races, acknowledging their concerns is a big step. Lest not we forget that it was independents that ultimately carried Obama to the White House. As the recent gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia have shown, Democrats can ill afford to lose these voters.