(PRESS RELEASE) Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) is reportedly resuming talks with House leaders in his effort to include restrictive abortion provisions in the healthcare reform bill. The news comes after Rep. Stupak threatened to block the legislation by holding up 11 votes unless lawmakers include the specific restrictions to abortion coverage that he proposed. But the President’s recent proposal already includes regressive anti-abortion measures authored by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and passed by the Senate late last year. Yesterday, he defended his hard-line position in an Associated Press article. He denied criticism that he is allowing his personal opposition to abortion to jeopardize health reform and accused pro-choice groups of attempting to make the bill a vehicle to expand abortion rights, “They injected it into the debate. Everyone thinks I did, I did not.” Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, has this response:”It’s become quite clear that Representative Stupak’s chosen course of action in the healthcare debate is the broken record-strategy. He has repeatedly injected the issue of abortion into the healthcare bill where it doesn’t belong, crafting an 11th-hour deal with the Catholic Bishops to include highly restrictive abortion provisions in the House bill, and threatening to block the entire health bill unless it includes those specific restrictions to abortion coverage. Outrageously, now he’s accusing pro-choice organizations of making abortion a stumbling block for healthcare reform. Representative Stupak’s revisionist history doesn’t pass the laugh test. From the very beginning, the pro-choice community agreed that healthcare reform should not be muddled by the politics that often surround abortion. We agreed to take one for the team, and maintain the status quo of no federal funding for abortion — even though that policy has proven disastrous for millions of women. We did so because we believed that advocates on all sides could come together in good faith to make healthcare reform a reality. That was the compromise embodied in the Capps Amendment, the compromise that Rep. Stupak singlehandedly derailed. Now that Rep. Stupak has realized just how unpopular his attempt to hijack healthcare has been, he wants to point fingers elsewhere. But just saying it doesn’t make it so.
“And yet, out of the other side of his mouth, Representative Stupak is still stuck on repeat — exaggerating the differences between the Stupak and Nelson abortion provisions in an effort to continue to hold healthcare reform hostage to his personal agenda. For months he has reiterated his opposition to the Nelson language while overlooking that it does exactly what he wants — it discourages insurance companies from offering abortion coverage on the private market by making it so onerous and burdensome to provide.
“Like Stupak’s amendment, the Nelson language far exceeds the reach of current law by restricting access to abortion coverage even for women who pay for their insurance with their own hard earned dollars. The harmful Nelson language also includes a lopsided conscience clause provision that may allow exchange administrators to bar from the exchanges plans that provide coverage of abortion. Like the Stupak Amendment, the Nelson language imposes burdens to stigmatize policyholders who choose coverage for abortion services. Like the Stupak Amendment, the Nelson language threatens to eliminate the coverage that many women already have.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly urges the President to reject any attempt to further restrict women’s abortion coverage. We vow to fight Stupak’s efforts in the reconciliation process in the Senate. Any new Stupak abortion provision will need 60 votes to overcome an objection to put it into a reconciliation bill and the choice community will fight tooth and nail against it. It’s time for Congress and the President to tell Representative Stupak to stop sounding off.”