Pro-Life Democrats Seek to Block Health Bill if Pelosi Won’t Allow Vote on Amendment Barring Abortion Funding

By Fred Lucas | October 12, 2009 | 12:31 AM EDT

Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) speaks to students on steps of Capitol. (Congressional photo)

( - Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, told that Democrats who oppose government funding of abortion will try to block the health care reform bill from coming to a vote on the House floor unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) allows a floor vote on an amendment to explicitly prohibit abortion funding in the bill.

Stupak was responding to a question from about White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s contention at Friday’s press briefing that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were mistaken in their belief that the Hyde Amendment, which bars abortion funding in each year’s Health and Human Services Appropriation, would not apply to the new programs created and funded through the health care bill.

What Stupak wants to do is attach the language of the Hyde Amendment to the health-care bill itself so that abortion funding is permanently and explicitly barred in federally funded health insurance plans.

“There are many of us Democrats in the House who are philosophically, legally, and morally opposed to public funding for abortions,” Stupak told in a statement. “We want the chance to offer our amendment, the Hyde Amendment, on the floor of the House.”

“If our amendment is not made in order we will try to shut down the rule, preventing the health care bill from coming to the floor for a vote,” Stupak stated. “If the Speaker believes that abortion funding is not in the bill then she should let me have my amendment, because if anything it would just be redundant.”

If the rule that would govern debate on the health care bill and stipulate which proposed
amendments are eligible for votes on the House floor is defeated by a vote of the House, the health care bill itself would die.  

Stupak told Fox News last month he believed he had enough voted lined up to defeat the rule if Speaker Pelosi does not agree to allow a vote on an amendment to explicitly bar abortion funding through the bill.

Stupak (D-Mich.) is co-sponsoring the amendment with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).  It says: “No funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except” in the cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.
The House health care bill as it now stands provides subsidies for people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level to buy government-approved health insurance plans or a government-run “public option” insurance plan in a health insurance “exchange.”  The secretary of health and human services is required under the bill to ensure that at least one plan in this exchange covers abortions. The secretary may also allow the public option plan to cover abortions.