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Will the Senate Stand Against Stupak? | The Nation

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Will the Senate Stand Against Stupak?

 

"That's the price of healthcare reform." That's what plenty of oh-so-well-meaning pundits have told those of us making a fussover the Stupak amendment, the late-night attachment to the Househealthcare reform bill that will leave virtually any woman accessinginsurance through the health insurance exchange without abortioncoverage. (Another argument that's cropped up is that the Stupakamendment won't actually affect abortion access for that many women, aclaim that's based on faulty analysis of Guttmacher data on billing forabortion care, as Adam Sonfield explains.)

 

 

But both pro-choice and progressive healthcare reform leaders andmembers of Congress have come out swinging against the amendment, somegoing as far as to make it clear they'll refuse to support reform ifCongressional Democrats decide to pay for it with women's healthcare.Calling the amendment a "middle-class abortion ban," Planned Parenthoodpresident Cecile Richards said Wednesday that her organization would notsupport healthcare reform with an amendment further limiting access toabortion. Meanwhile, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Diane Feinstein havebegun strategizing how to keep Stupak off the Senate bill, the New York Times reports.

 

 

"Keeping Stupak off the Senate bill is our primary goal right now,"Laurie Rubiner, PPFA vice-president, said, "and chances are very goodfor that." "We're definitely hearing a lot of encouraging talk [aboutthe Senate]," Donna Crane, public policy director at NARAL Pro-ChoiceAmerica, adds. "The Senate thinks the House went too far."

 

 

Sen. Ben Nelson has grabbed headlines with the announcement that hewon't support the Senate healthcare reform bill unless it, too, banscoverage of abortion for any plan financed in part by affordabilitycredits, but advocates were doubtful that he could get the 60 votesnecessary to have the bill considered. "If someone wants to offer thisvery radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long]compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votesto do it," Sen. Barbara Boxer told the Huffington Post. "It is a much more pro-choiceSenate than it has been in a long time, and it is much more pro-choicethan the House." "Ben Nelson is looking for any excuse to vote againsthealthcare reform," Rubiner says. "It's abortion today, it was thepublic plan yesterday."

 

 

NARAL, though it is running a petition asking Sen. Harry Reid tokeep Stupak-like language off the Senate bill, has not yet drawn a linein the sand. "We don't have an answer to that question," Crane told mewhen I asked whether NARAL would support a healthcare reform bill withStupak-like language attached. But the group's rhetoric is strong: in Politico, Nancy Keenan, NARAL president, said that "we are prepared to stopat nothing."

 

 

In order to fight the abortion restrictions successfully, the coalition needs to extend "beyond the women's health community," Richards said Wednesday. Andindeed some of the most prominent progressive voices for healthcarereform are supporting joining the women's health advocates' fight.Health Care for America Now, the leading grassroots progressivecoalition for reform, and its high-profile members, MoveOn and SEIU,have all decried Stupak. When asked how committed HCAN is tosecuring healthcare reform without further curtailing abortion access,National Campaign Director Richard Kirsch said, "It's a very strongcommitment. We have a set of principles, one is comprehensive benefits,including reproductive health benefits which includes abortion care." Still, Kirsch acknowledged, it's possible HCAN could take a positionagainst healthcare reform with major concessions on reproductivehealthcare while some of its members decide to do the opposite.

 

 

But some pro-choice advocates clearly feel progressive groups, ifnot HCAN in particular, are sending mixed signals. On RH Reality Check, Amie Newman bemoaned aninbox-full of email from progressive advocacy groups who didn't evenmention Stupak. She later received an email from MoveOn acknowledgingthe compromise on women's health, but not mobilizing MoveOn members totake action on the issue. Rubiner, however, said that "we've beentalking with MoveOn and they'll be part of our mobilization."

 

 

Citing a "standing-room-only" meeting with progressive groups at thePPFA offices strategizing how to respond to Stupak, Richards said,"There's a fair amount of solidarity. It has to be clear that we willnot support a bill with Stupak."

 

 

Readers concerned about the Stupak amendment can join PlannedParenthood in DC on December 2 for a National LobbyDay and can sign on to NARAL's petition to Sen. Reid.

 

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