On Friday, during a town hall in Houghton, Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) refused to commit to voting against a health care bill that did not include the House bill’s abortion language. “I will work with Democratic leadership, hopefully we’ll get this issue worked” Stupak began, as the audience broke out in laughter at his nonresponse.
After repeatedly pledging to vote against any bill that did not include very severe restrictions on abortion, Stupak emphasized at the town hall that he does not make outright commitments or pledges and explained that if the final legislation did not meet his requirements, he would review the entire bill before deciding how he would vote:
If this public funding for abortion, if we change current policy, I will read the bill, make sure if that is the last issue, I probably will not vote for it. But I am not going to — we’re still negotiating. You do not play all your cards at the poker table while you are negotiating…. I would be hard-pressed to vote for something that has public funding for abortion…Let’s read the legislation and see what it says.
It’s unlikely that the final health care bill would not provide federal funding for abortion that goes beyond the Hyde restrictions. The original Capps Amendment in the House bill and the abortion compromise in the Senate legislation both segregate public and private funds, and only allow private premiums to be used for abortion coverage. The Senate bill would require the applicant to write a separate check to pay for abortion services.
Stupak claimed that he had rounded up 10 or 12 other Representatives (he had previously said he had 10-20 commitments) to vote against a final bill that does effectively ban coverage for most abortions from all public and private health plans in the exchange. “I really feel, because there is such a strong sentiment in the U.S. Congress to get health care worked out, it may not be the end of January, it might be the end of February and I don’t see anything magic between January 28th, having it done by then or February 28th,” he said. “I think in the final analysis it will get resolved. I hope it does, but if it doesn’t…maybe you do have to defeat it. Doesn’t prevent you 30 days later from bringing back a bill addressing the objections of members and why the voted against it.” “There is time to do it…I think we get a health care bill eventually.”