Abortion Compromise Unconstitutional? Key House Members Raise Objection

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December 19, 2009 2:25 p.m.

A number of key pro-choice Democrats–including Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA)–have said they can get behind the new abortion compromise in Senate health care legislation.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), author of an early abortion compromise that would have required insurance companies to segregate federal and private dollars, and to finance abortions through the latter pool, is disappointed, but ultimately supportive.Capps says:

I am pleased the Senate appears to be moving forward on health reform, however, I am disappointed that women’s access to full reproductive health care is again paying the price. The provisions regarding abortion services in the underlying Senate bill, based on my earlier proposal, ensured that federal funds would not be used to pay for this legal medical procedure yet still provide women in need with access to this procedure. This latest compromise is far from perfect but it will allow most middle and low income patients to purchase comprehensive health insurance plans, something the House bill language would prevent. As we move forward with this historic legislation, we must ensure all patients can purchase health care plans that best meet their needs. I want to thank the Senators, especially Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who worked to maintain a common sense compromise approach to this challenging issue.

But Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY)–co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucuse–say they’re not sold. They say the new compromise is possibly unconstitutional, and that they and other pro-choice House members could still reject it.

As the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, we have serious reservations about the abortion provision included in the U.S. Senate’s health care bill. This provision is not only offensive to people who believe in choice, but it is also possibly unconstitutional. As we have maintained throughout this process, health care reform should not be misused to take away access to health care. The more than 190-member Caucus will review this language carefully as we move forward on health care reform.

The Nelson compromise may ultimately allow health care reform to pass in the Senate–but with strong opposition from both pro-life and pro-choice members and constituent groups, the language still an open question in the House. Onward to conference!

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