By Evan McMorris-Santoro
“Abortion rights groups say the rejection of Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) abortion amendment last night makes it easier for them to pressure House Democrats into rejecting a similar amendment included in the House health care reform bill by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI).
‘It gives us a huge boost,’ Laura MacCleery, government relations director for the Center For Reproductive Rights, told TPMDC. ‘It’s a huge step forward — but we’re not out of the woods yet.’
MacCleery said House Democrats are already starting to back away from Stupak, which she claimed they passed only after being ‘badly misled’ on what the bill does. The Senate vote to table Nelson’s amendment last night showed that didn’t happen this time around, she said. She equated part of that change to the raucous pushback against Stupak led by pro-choice groups.
‘It was very instructive that there was no debate on the merits [of the amendment,]’ MacCleery said. ‘Democrats knew enough about what it would do to stop it at the procedural level.’
Moving ahead, MacCleery said her group will ‘work with members of Congress’ to continue to spread the word about the pro-choice reading of Stupak. Other abortion rights groups say they’ll do the same thing.
Though she sees the battle over Stupak as one step closer to being won by her side, MacCleery said the victory is a phyrric one. The bills as written now won’t include government subsidies for abortion coverage, which MacCleery said means access to abortion will still be based on income in the United States.
‘[The Nelson amendment vote] is a glass-half-full moment, but we still only won half the glass — we’re not gaining any ground here,’ she said. ‘Arguably, we’re actually losing ground. We should be repealing the Hyde Amendment.'”