Roundup: Healthcare Reform Bill Passes, Includes Deal With Stupak

Rachel Larris

Late last night the House passed the healthcare reform bill in a vote of 219 to 212. A last minute deal between Rep. Bart Stupak and President Barack Obama, who promised to sign an executive order after the House vote, retained his support. Reaction to the deal from pro- and anti-choice groups was swift.

Late last night the House passed the healthcare reform bill in a vote of 219 to 212. In the end 34 Democrats voted against the bill, but Rep. Bart Stupak was not among them. That’s because there was a last minute deal between Stupak and President Barack Obama, who promised to sign an executive order after the House vote. You can read the full text of the executive order here.

The Associated Press reports:

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., leader of the anti-abortion bloc, said he was satisfied with an executive order issued by Obama affirming prohibitions in current law and in the health legislation against taxpayer money going to abortions.

“Make no doubt about it. There will be no public funds for abortion,” Stupak said in announcing the agreement Sunday ahead of a vote on the landmark health care bill.

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Stupak said he would have preferred to change the law itself, as sought by the bishops and others, but that it wasn’t possible because the votes weren’t there in the Senate.

“We cannot get more than 45 pro-life votes in the Senate. The bishops are right, statutory law is better than an executive order. We can’t get there,” Stupak said. “So what do you have, nothing? Or do you want the same executive order that has the force of law? I’ll take the executive order.”

The Washington Post reports that many organizations condemned the deal from both pro-choice and anti-choice sides.

The president of the National Organization for Women said her group is “incensed” about the impasse-breaking deal between President Obama and a group of anti-abortion Catholic Democrats that seems likely to allow historic health-care reform legislation to pass the House later Sunday night, saying the planned presidential executive order “breaks faith with women.”

In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign had promised abortion-rights supporters that he would work to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which NOW President Terry O’Neill said Sunday would instead be given fresh weight by Obama’s executive order.

“Obama does not support the Hyde Amendment,” his campaign staff told Rewire in response to a questionnaire from the reproductive rights group. “He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman’s decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors.”

Said O’Neill: “President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law — it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Catholics for Choice also condemned the deal.

“On a day when Americans are expected to see passage of legislation that will make health care more affordable for more than 30 million citizens, it is deeply disappointing that Bart Stupak and other anti-choice politicians would demand the restatement of the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory law that blocks low-income women from receiving full reproductive-health care,” NARAL President Nancy Keenan said in a statement.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued a statement of regret but did not go as far as NOW and NARAL in condemning the deal.

“We regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health-care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska,” said Cecile Richards, president of PPFA. She also said her group is “grateful” that the executive order does not “include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak had insisted upon.”

As a consequences of the deal, Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for Choice, called for abortion rights supporters to renew their push to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“I hope the choice movement now decides to play hardball with Democrats, including the President, and insist that an all out effort to overturn the Hyde Amendment is required if Democratic office holders and candidates want our vote in 2012,” she told The Post. “I for one have decided that I simply will not vote for another elected official until Hyde is overturned and I hope others will do the same. There is no reason for prochoice voters to accept Democratic pussyfooting around on repealing Hyde.”

Meanwhile the Christian Wire Service issued a press release noting reaction from several anti-choice organizations who similarly denounced the executive order, albeit for different reasons than pro-choice groups.

“The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation. This is the unanimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts we have consulted on abortion jurisprudence. Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation.” (Richard Doerflinger, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

The Hill reports that on Wednesday Stupak was due to receive a “Defender of Life” award from the anti-choice group the Susan B. Anthony List. However in response to his vote on Sunday the group announced they stripped him of the award.

“By accepting this deal from the most pro-abortion President in American history, Stupak has not only failed to stand strong for unborn children, but also for his constituents and pro-life voters across the country,” Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

“Let me be clear: any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this healthcare bill can no longer call themselves ‘pro-life.’ The Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund will not endorse, or support in any capacity, any Member of Congress who votes for this bill in any future election.”

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