Health

House Democrats Will Consider Stupak’s Abortion Amendment On The Floor

During yesterday’s all-night marathon hearing before the House Rules Committee to consider which amendments would be introduced during floor debate of the House health care bill, the Committee agreed to allow the full House to vote on Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) amendment to effectively ban plans in the exchange from covering abortion services. The floor will debate the amendment on the House floor for 20 minutes.

Democrats have been trying to broker a compromise on abortion coverage by offering up Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) less restrictive amendment to segregate public funds from abortion funding and hire “a private contractor to pay abortion providers, thus avoiding direct federal payments.” But that agreement “fell apart,” Stupak reported.

“We came to the point where we actually an agreement tonight, but unfortunately it fell apart. So that’s why we had to scramble to be here. I regret that the agreement fell apart, I think everyone meant well and I’m not trying to place blame,” he said at midnight:

First, our amendment does not prevent any private insurer from selling a policy which covers abortion. This ensures that those who want abortion coverage have access to it without forcing anyone or anyone else to pay for another one’s abortion with their tax dollars of with their private funds. Second, our amendment does not prevent any individual from purchasing a plan that covers abortion as long as their coverage is not subsidized with affordability credits….Our amendment does not prevent an insurer participating in the Exchange from selling health plans in the Exchange…Our amendment simply applies the current law, Hyde Amendment to the public health insurance option and the private policies purchased using affordability credits.

Watch it:

But Stupak is misrepresenting the House legislation and the existing federal restrictions on abortion funding. Currently, the House bill contains what’s called the Capps Amendment — a compromise that maintains Hyde Amendment restrictions. The arrangement protects Hyde by specifying that subsidy dollars could only be used to abort pregnancies that threaten the life of mother or result from rape or incest (Hyde allows for this). Other kinds of abortions would have to be funded with private premiums. The provision also requires that at least one plan in each market area offer abortion services and one plan not. No abortion services—even those allowed by the Hyde Amendment — can be mandated as part of a minimum benefits package.

Stupak and his allies want to go beyond Hyde. Under their amendment, women who purchase comprehensive private insurance packages — that include abortion services — would have to pay for the entire cost of the package (even if they qualify for subsidies).

They’re arguing that the current firewall between public and private money is inadequate. If a woman uses federal subsidies to pay for a basic benefit, she would have more private money available to fund her abortion, they claim. Or, alternatively, “premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars.” It’s the equivalent of arguing that women who receive abortions should not use public buses or highways to travel to the abortion clinic.

The amendment won the endorsement of the Conference of Catholic Bishops but sparked criticism from several pro-choice groups. “This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all, by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a late-night release. “Women won’t stand for legislation that takes away their current benefits and leaves them worse off after health care reform than they are today.

Transcript:

We came to the point where we actually an agreement tonight, but unfortunately it fell apart. So that’s why we had to scramble to be here. I regret that the agreement fell apart, I think everyone meant well and I’m not trying to place blame. So we’re to the point now where we’re back to where we started back in July when we came before the Energy and Commerce Committee….So let me begin by clearly articulating what this amendment does not do. First, our amendment does not prevent any private insurer from selling a policy which covers abortion. This ensure that those who want abortion coverage have access to it without forcing anyone or anyone else to pay for another one’s abortion with their tax dollars of with their private funds. Second, our amendment does not prevent any individual from purchasing a plan that covers abortion as long as their coverage is not subsidized with affordability credits. Third, and I stress this point because it is a common misconception about our amendment. Our amendment does not prevent an insurer participating in the Exchange from selling health plans in the Exchange that include elective abortions so long as no subsidies are used to purchase their policy and an insurer offers an identical plan without elective abortion coverage to subsidize purchasers. Our amendment simply applies the current law, Hyde Amendment to the public health insurance option and the private policies purchased using affordability credits.

The public option operator in the US Department Health and Human Services, in the same way as Medicare will draw funds from the Federal treasury account authorized under section 322 of this bill. Regardless of h ow they’re collected, these funds are paid from the U.S. treasury are federal funds. Allowing funding for abortion through the public option as the bill currently does represents a clear departure from long-standing policy by authorizing federal government to pay for elective abortion first time in decades. Members of this committee, all we’re asking, on behalf of the majority of the House that supports the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment is an opportunity for our voices to be heard. If you do not allow our amendment to even be voted on during the floor consideration, you’re silencing a considerable member, probably the majority of the members of this body who have deep convictions on this issue.