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How Does a Religious Cult Have the Clout to Delay Health Care Vote?

To keep House vote on track, Pelosi struggles to appease the Catholic church and The Family cult on abortion language.
 
 
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Just when it seemed the stars were aligning for an historic vote tomorrow on health-care reform legislation in the House of Representatives, anti-choice Democrats are balking, saying that the plan would permit the indirect flow of federal dollars to fund abortion.

Led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., a member of the Capitol Hill religious cult known as The Family, and spurred on by the Catholic bishops, anti-abortion Dems are contesting the fact that some small number of private insurance plans offered via the bill's insurance exchange scheme may offer coverage for abortion -- even therapeutic abortion. Where the federal dollars come in is via the subsidies for which lower-income people would be eligible for buying insurance through the exchange.

Politico's Patrick O'Connor reports on the church's influence at the negotiating table:

Negotiators are working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to finalize language the church can accept. Vulnerable anti-abortion Democrats don’t want to support any bill that the bishops haven’t signed off on.

Last time I looked, abortion was a legal medical procedure in the United States. The changes the church wants would virtually forbid abortion coverage, even for women carrying fetuses without a chance of surviving outside the womb. The church seeks to codify its contempt for women into U.S. law, dooming a woman already facing a tragic pregnancy to compromise her life and health -- mental and physical -- apparently for the sin of having had sex.

As the legislation stands, no federal dollars would directly cover an abortion, and the public plan will offer no abortion coverage. But that's not enough for the men of the cloth.

The question remains, of course, as to whether this is an issue truly of moral conscience, or just a trick for stalling health-care reform. At Michele Bachmann's disinform-athon yesterday on the Capitol steps, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins alleged, untruthfully, that the bill announced last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi covers abortion, as did several members of Congress. The Family Research Council is a Republican-allied group.

 

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington editor.