White House Unclear on Whether Obama Backs Stupak Amendment on Abortion Funding

October 28, 2009 - 5:45 PM
The White House reaffirmed Wednesday that President Obama does not want the health care reform bill to fund abortion. However, the administration did not say whether the president backs an amendment with specific language that would definitively prohibit abortion funding – a provision from a pro-life House Democrat who is threatening to block the legislation if the amendment is not voted on.

President Barack Obama, followed by Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, walks into the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, to sign the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – The White House reaffirmed Wednesday that President Obama does not want the health care reform bill to fund abortion. However, the administration did not say whether the president backs an amendment with specific language that would definitively prohibit abortion funding – a provision from a pro-life House Democrat who is threatening to block the legislation if the amendment is not voted on.
 
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) told CNSNews.com last week that he has tried to work the matter out with the House Democratic leadership, as the president asked him to do, but to no avail. Stupak said it is “getting down to crunch time, and I would call upon the president to help us out here.” 
 
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “has told me I will not have my amendment,” Stupak said.
 
Under Stupak’s plan, about 40 Democrats would join with House Republicans to vote to defeat the special House “rule” that would set the terms for debating and amending the health care bill on the House floor when it is brought up for a final vote. If a majority of the House does not first vote to approve this rule, the health care bill itself cannot be brought to the floor.
 
CNSNews.com asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Wednesday if the president would ask Pelosi to allow a vote on the Stupak amendment.
 
“I will see if there is an update from legislative affairs on that,” Gibbs told CNSNews.com. “I know that the president’s position on that has been clear: That no federal money should be used to pay for abortions.”
 
CNSNews.com clarified that, according to Stupak, President Obama was referring to his own vision for health care reform, rather than the House version of the health care bill, when the two of them spoke.
 
Stupak said, “I called the president – had a discussion with the president. And I read exactly what you just said: ‘What it says is ‘under my plan’ – meaning the president’s plan. And I said, ‘With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan.’ So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what.”
 
Gibbs said he would try to clarify what was said between Stupak and the president in that conversation.
 
“I can go back and see if I can get more clarity on that conversation,” said Gibbs. “Obviously they did talk about this.”
 
On Aug. 21, Factcheck.org reported the following about the health care reform bill: “Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies. Therefore, we judge that the president goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions ‘fabrications.’”
 
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) memo to pro-life Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J) said the Hyde amendment – budget language that prohibits federal funds from covering most abortions – would not apply to health care subsidies. 
 
“In summary, Section 207 of H.R. 3200 creates a Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund, appropriates amounts to the Fund, and requires payments from the Fund,” said an Aug. 28 CRS memo. “If enacted, all of these actions would be authorized without any further legislative action, such as a further appropriation in a subsequent act.”
 
Stupak said that House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) has told him there is “no way” her committee will write a rule that allows a floor vote on his amendment.  The Democratic majority on the Rules Committee, Stupak said, acts on Pelosi’s direction.
 
Stupak’s amendment would prohibit federal funds from paying for any part of an insurance plan that provides abortion. If the health bill passes in its current form without the amendment, federal health insurance subsidies could be used to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion.