Think The Stupak Amendment Is Bad Now? It Could Have Been Worse

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Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which voted way back in July to advance health care legislation to the House floor. At the time, the legislation stipulated that no federal funds authorized by the bill would be used to pay for abortions, except in cases of incest, risk to the life of the mother, and rape. And at the time, that was good enough.

But even back then, Stupak was trying to strengthen the language in the bill restricting the availability of abortion services under the House health care plan.

A day before the bill passed out of committee, Stupak co-sponsored, and voted for an amendment written by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)–distinct from the now notorious “Stupak amendment”–that would have limited the government’s ability to include abortions in benefits plans to cases of incest, life of the mother, and forcible rape.The Pitts amendment actually passed, 31-27, with the support of several Democrats and all Republicans. But the “forcible” language–legally significant–was a bridge too far.

In a parliamentary maneuver, chairman Henry Waxman actually voted “aye”, according to a House aide, in order to retain the prerogative of bringing it up for a second, unsuccessful vote. Between votes, Waxman conferred with some of the bill’s Democratic supporters to convince them to help shoot it down.

One of them, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), agreed to flip his vote. Another–Rep. Zack Space (D-IN)–didn’t vote at all the first time around, but voted against it on its second pass. And that was enough to kill it.

This past weekend, Stupak succeeded in adding his own, strict abortion language to the bill passed by the full House. Without distinguishing between “rape” and “forcible rape,” the “Stupak amendment” prevents women receiving insurance affordability credits from buying policies that cover abortion. And it has quickly become one of the main focal points of the reform fight.

There are some signs that Stupak’s pro-life tendencies run even deeper than his amendment indicates. But he’s also shown a willingness to advance legislation, even if it isn’t as pro-life as he’d like.

Stupak’s office has not respond to a request for an interview.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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