"I Am Not Trying to Kill Health Reform," Says House Blue Dog Bart Stupak -- Is It True?

Blue Dog Democrats in Congress played a "magnificent" role in blocking health care reform during the Clinton administration. And, under the "courageous" and "smart" leadership of House Pro-Life Caucus leader, Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, with the support and prayers of Republicans categorically opposed to the Democratic Party's health care reform effort, the Blue Dogs may be able to do it again.

That's what Stupak's caucus co-chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) told the audience at a "townhall" panel event on Friday September 18th at the Family Research Council Action's Washington DC 2009 Values Voter Summit [see attached video and transcript]. Another Republican at the event, Tom Price (R-GA), suggested that lockstep GOP opposition to health care reform affords the Blue Dogs "an opportunity to show some backbone" and "stand up to their leadership to say 'no more will we allow this travesty to go on.'"

In an October 29 op-ed for The Hill, Stupak protests, “[r]ecent news articles have reported that I am trying to “kill” healthcare reform, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.” In his Hill op-ed, Bart Stupak writes, “[o]ur healthcare system is broken and I believe reform is necessary.” As usual, the devil is in the details.

Representative Stupak has repeatedly said that his anti-abortion caucus has enough Democratic Party votes to ally with Republicans to block the health care bill from going to the house floor and Stupak is demanding, in exchange for not blocking the bill, that he be allowed to introduce an amendment to H.R. 3200 that would definitively prevent the new health care program from funding abortions.

According to Stupak his amendment probably would pass because polls show that a clear majority of Americans are opposed to the government funding of abortions. But if the amendment passes, the Democratic Party pro-choice voting block in the House may withdraw its support of H.R. 3200, leaving House leadership without enough votes to pass the bill.

However, Bart Stupak’s agenda seems to go beyond simply preventing federally funded abortions and could be viewed as a back-door effort that could make abortion services unavailable to most Americans. A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute found that 87% of US counties lacked abortion providers but the health care amendment Stupak has co-sponsored together with GOP Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) would bar not only publicly but also privately funded abortion coverage in a national health care exchange system; health care providers participating in the new health care system wouldn’t be allowed to offer abortion services at all.

One of Stupak’s statements even seems suggest he is opposed to a health care system which acknowledges any basic reproductive rights whatsoever. On Wednesday September 23rd, in an interview for the National Catholic Register, which bills itself as the nation's biggest Catholic pro-life publication, Bart Stupak warned that under public health care options, "At least one dollar of your money will go to supplement reproductive rights or abortion services."

The position and health care amendment seem almost tailored to offend reproductive rights advocates in the House and call into question Congressman Stupak’s assurance that he is acting in good will. Which in turn raises the issue of Bart Stupak’s involvement in The Family.


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