For the third time in less than six months, the issue of abortion threatens to kill health care reform. The initiative is fragile enough without abortion, yet more and more it's becoming clear that abortion is the one, final issue that must be resolved if Democrats are to succeed. But this time, there's much less legislative wiggle room than before and Democrats are scrambling to figure out what, if anything can be done.
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The logjam is a familiar one, and comes down to simple political arithmetic. For health care reform to pass, he House must pass the Senate bill word for word, then make minor tweaks to it through the budget reconciliation process. But Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)--and, if we take him at his word, about a dozen of his Democratic colleagues--say they won't vote for health care again unless the Senate's abortion language is made more restrictive--a demand that seems like a legislative impossibility.