Moments ago, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) officially announced that he will vote in favor of the health care reform bill after receiving assurances from the White House that the President will issue an executive order re-stating the current prohibitions against abortion funding. “I’m pleased to announce that we have an agreement and it’s with the help of the President, the Speaker, we were able to come with an agreement to protect the sanctity of life in the health care reform that there will be no public funding of abortion in this legislation,” Stupak said at a press conference, before announcing, “we’re well past 216”:
STUPAK: There has been some question raised by different groups that in this health care reform package, that somehow, some way, the abortions could be preformed at the community health centers. The President’s executive order makes it very clear that will not happen. There is some question that underneath in this bill, that somehow, you could pay for abortions with the new funds being appropriated for the community health centers. That is not possible with this executive order. There was concerns in this legislation that the conscious clause, that those who might have religious or moral objections….would somehow be co-opted or their values be lessened underneath this legislation. The President makes it clear the conscience clause will always be available and it will be in force of law.
“We have assurances from the President and others that he will not rip this up tomorrow,” Stupak said. “The President has put his commitment in writing.” Watch it:
Stupak said that he would have preferred to vote on a separate measure prohibiting federal funding for abortion, but recognized that it could not pass in the Senate. “The reality is, we can’t pass it in the Senate…we cannot get more than 45 pro-life votes.” “The Bishops are right. Statutory law is better than executive order. But we can’t get there,” he said, referring to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the executive order. “This is just as good as statutory language,” Stupak insisted.
To some degree, however, Stupak is walking back from some of his past arguments. He had previously claimed that if a woman uses federal subsidies to pay for a basic benefit, she would have more private money available to fund her abortion. 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.” Now, he is walking back from his “money is fungible” argument.
The White House released the text of the executive order just moments before Stupak’s press conference began and from what I can tell, it reinforces the Nelson compromise in the Senate bill and reaffirms that federal funding cannot be used to fund abortions within the exchanges or community health care centers. “Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment,” the order reads.” The order also directs “the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this Executive Order, a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act’s segregation requirements.”