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.”

March 22, 2010

Arizona Senate to vote on abortion reporting bill KGUN

A look at the health care overhaul bill Washington Post

Abortion opponents, supporters not happy Seattle Times

N.J. gay-marriage battle back in court Philadelphia Inquirer

Egypt to legalize abortion Examiner.com

Ever use a condom? You can thank Bill Baird MassLive.com

Stupak stripped of ‘Defender of Life’ award he was to receive this week The Hill

Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed on: Dems’ Fantasy Executive Order Christian News Wire

NOW, NARAL displeased with Obama-Stupak deal Washington Post

When HIV is deemed a deadly weapon Houston Chronicle

March 21, 2010

Abortion compromise doesn’t satisfy critics Washington Post

Abortion deal helps ensure enough votes for health care USA Today

In Nebraska, issues of immigration and abortion collide Los Angeles Times

Knights of Columbus rallying against ‘immoral’ Philippines contraception campaign Catholic News Agency

Facing Massive Deficit, NJ Governor Proposes Cutting Planned Parenthood From … Catholic Online

March 20, 2010

Kan. abortion foes use strange path to push bill CNBC

Rise in syphilis, cuts in funding a worry in Philadelphia Philadelphia Inquirer

Kern teen birth rates ratchet up as prevention programs axed Bakersfield Californian

March 19, 2010

Late-term Abortion Ban Advances in Nebraska Lifesite

Contraception divide Globe and Mail

State budget could cut AIDS drugs in county jailsTri Valley Herald

Step Closer to Required Condoms in Porn? ABC News (blog)

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.