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Congress Divided Over Abortion in Health Care: Blocks on Procedural Votes Needed

Today, an Associated Press article highlighted the division among Democrats in the House of Representatives over abortion in health care reform.  The article accurately describes several of the reasons why pro-life members of Congress are not satisfied with the “Capps Amendment” (language added to the House bill during the Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up):

1) The amendment allows government subsidies to go to health insurance plans that cover abortion.

2) Current federal laws that prohibit abortion funding and coverage, such as the Hyde Amendment, will not apply to the new benefits created by health care reform.

However, the article does not mention two major problems with Capps:

1) Abortion will be covered by the public option under the Capps Amendment, leading to immediate federal funding of abortion.

2) The Capps Amendment would ensure that one private plan in every area of the country includes abortion coverage.

Congressmen Bart Stupak (D-Mich) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), along with 181 other members of Congress, have asked Speaker Pelosi to allow a vote on the House Floor on an amendment that would explicitly exclude abortion funding.  However, according to the AP and our own sources, the Democratic leadership does not plan to grant this request because they know that the amendment will succeed if given a vote.  Therefore, to prevent the health care reform bill from being pushed through without the inclusion of express language excluding abortion, pro-life members of the House must block the procedural vote “on the rule” (regarding which amendments may be considered on the Floor).

While the article states that “abortion has been much less of an issue” in the Senate, the final Senate bill that emerges from the back rooms of Congress will likely be just as dangerous to the unborn as the House bill.  Amendments that would have explicitly excluded abortion funding and coverage were defeated in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate Finance Committee bill includes provisions similar to the proabortion Capps Amendment, and the Senate HELP bill leaves abortion coverage and funding to the discretion of an administrative agency.

Because our sources tell us that any pro-life amendments are likely to fail on the Senate Floor, pro-life Senators and other Senators who are do not want the government to pay for abortions must prevent the Senate from proceeding to consideration of the bill, by blocking the “motion to proceed.”