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House Takes Up-or-Down Vote on Stupak Amendment, Threatening Women's Rights

The House leadership bows to anti-choice congressmen, allowing them a vote on an anti-choice amendment to the health-care bill.

This post is from Jodi Jacobson's blog at RH Reality Check.

House Democratic leaders will allow an up-or-down vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which seeks to block even private insurance plans from funding abortion care.

In other words, this amendment, if passed and included in a final health reform bill, would block you from getting insurance to cover legal procedures in the United States of America, with premiums paid with your personal funds. Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Women's Law Center and other groups are calling for immediate action against the amendment, and you can click here to find your representative and tell them to vote no on Stupak.

The amendment, named for Representatives Bart Stupak, D-Mich, and Joe Pitts, R-Penn.  Stupak is a so-called "Democrat for Life;" Pitts has been a dogged supporter of failed abstinence-only policies, domestically and internationally, and was among those who succeeded in adding language forbidding the provision of contraceptive supplies for HIV-positive women in US global AIDS funding.

The agreement to vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment came after 1:00 am this morning when an effort to adopt compromise language crafted by Rep. Brad Ellsworth apparently was rejected by Stupak and his supporters.  We reported on the Ellsworth Amendment here.  Rejection of the Ellsworth Amendment makes clear the agenda of Stupak's amendment is to ban abortion care in private insurance plans, because Ellsworth provided numerous protections against the use of federal funds for abortions other than those for rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother, for all of which the law now allows federal funding.

The Hill reports that:

Liberals on the committee threatened to vote against the final healthcare bill if it included Stupak's language, warning that it would be a return to the days of back-alley abortions.

"I forsee a return to the dark ages," Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., told The Hill. "I'm 73, I've seen these dark things, they use these coat hangers and die."

"I used to think that life was black or white, but the older I get the most gray it becomes," liberal Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told the panelists of the House Rules committee as they debated whether to allow the amendment. "I find this amendment very, very uncomfortable."

Having successfully made birth control "too controversial for health reform," Stupak, working with other "Dems for Life," the now unabashedly ultra-right Republican party and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops threatened to block passage of the health reform bill unless he got his way on the vote. His efforts are backed up by a massive organizing effort undertaken by the Catholic Bishops to mobilize ultra-conservative Catholics throughout the country. More than 85 percent of Catholics in the United States use birth control, and Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as women in the general population.

Women's rights advocates, including the speaker of the House and a majority of the Democratic caucus, support a provision in the health-care bill that would subsidize abortions for poor women who can't afford them, in keeping with current law.

"Rep. Stupak’s proposal to codify the Hyde amendment in health-care reform would force women who want comprehensive reproductive health-care coverage to purchase a separate, single-service rider," said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In the statement, Richards explains:

Such an "abortion rider," whereby abortion care could only be covered by a single-service plan in the exchange, is discriminatory and illogical. Women do not plan to have unintended pregnancies or medically complicated pregnancies that require ending the pregnancy. In fact, about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and abortion is not something that women plan to insure against. As a result, an "abortion rider" policy is unworkable. Women would not choose to purchase it, and would subsequently be unable to obtain the care they need. Proposing a separate ‘abortion rider’ represents exactly the type of government interference in the health care marketplace that conservatives purport to vehemently oppose.