Senate Abortion Language is No Compromise, Pro-Life Dem Says

By Matt Cover | December 21, 2009 | 5:36 PM EST

Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) (Congressional photo)

( – Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said that so-called abortion compromise language in the Senate health-care bill is no such thing. Stupak, leader of a coalition of pro-life Democrats in the House, called the Senate language “unacceptable” and vowed to oppose it.
“While I and many other pro-life Democratic House members wish to see health-care coverage for all Americans, the proposed Senate language is unacceptable,” Stupak said in a statement released over the weekend. 

“A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage,” he said.
The Michigan congressman could not be reached for comment because all federal government offices were closed Monday in the aftermath of a weekend blizzard that shut down the nation’s capital and much of the Eastern seaboard. 

Stupak, who succeeded in getting a pro-life amendment attached to the House version of the bill which bars federal taxpayer support of abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake, held out hope that fellow Democrats would again acquiesce to his demands and produce a health-care bill he can support, saying he hoped their differences on abortion could be resolved in conference.

Republican Party leader Michael Steele cast doubt on that idea, however, declaring that “the fix is in” and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would forgo conference negotiations and instead opt to push the Senate bill through the House.

“The fix is in here – there won’t be a legitimate conference (committee), the House members are being told to accept whatever the Senate bill (sic) comes up with, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi is going to capitulate on this and the House members are going to have to live with it. They are going to have to eat a whole lot of stuff in the Senate bill that they don’t like and they don’t want,” Steele said Monday in a telephone news conference from Washington. 

Pelosi's predicted "capitulation" would presumably involve acceptance of the fact that the Senate bill does not include a "public option" -- government-run health insurance -- which Pelosi supports and the House bill does include. But arguably, the biggest bone of contention is the abortion "compromise" of Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).   

The controversial abortion compromise involves a Democratic plan to try and segregate federal health insurance subsidies from private insurance premiums, mandating that only the latter can be used to pay for abortions.
This “segregation” works by prohibiting a health insurer from using “any amount attributable” to a federal subsidy to pay for abortion.
“If a qualified health plan provides coverage of services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i), the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to any of the following for purposes of paying for such services:
“(i) The credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (and the amount (if any) of the advance payment of the credit under section 1412 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). (ii) Any cost-sharing reduction under section 1402 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (and the amount (if any) of the advance payment of the reduction under section 1412 of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act),” the bill reads.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called this provision an “accounting gimmick” on Saturday.

“Under Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ there is no prohibition on abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans participating in the Exchange. Instead the amendment includes layers of accounting gimmicks that demand that plans participating in the Exchange or the new government-run plan that will be managed by the Office of Personnel Management must establish “allocation accounts” when elective abortion is a covered benefit,” Boehner wrote on the “Republican Leader” blog.

These “allocation accounts” would, if passed, segregate public and private funds, permitting only private funds from being used to pay for abortions. Individuals would then be forced to pay an “abortion surcharge” out of their own pocket, regardless of whether will ever have – or be able to have – an abortion.

“In the case of a plan to which subparagraph (A) applies [one which covers abortion], the issuer of the plan shall -- (i) collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment [for abortion services],” the bill states.
This would mean that federal funds, while not being used to pay for abortions directly, would still be used to subsidize the cost of having an abortion, since without the federal subsidy the health plan would be unaffordable.
“In short, the Reid bill continues to defy the will of the American people and contradict longstanding federal policy by providing federal subsidies to private health plans that cover elective abortions,” Boehner said.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said the provision would "put the federal government in the business of subsidizing elective abortions.”

“Even though there are these accounting provisions that require people to take a second step of making another payment to cover abortion, they are still paying with a government subsidy,” Perkins told 

Perkins. meanwhile, said that “nothing short of Stupak (language) is acceptable to pro-life Americans.”
Members of the Senate voted early Monday morning 60-40 along party lines to invoke cloture on the Reid health-care bill -- a parliamentary procedure which shut off debate and is expected to bring the legislation to a vote before Christmas.