Will the Senate Stand Against Anti-Choice Stupak Amendment?

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

But both pro-choice and progressive health-care reform leaders and members of Congress have come out swinging against the amendment, some going as far as to make it clear they'll refuse to support reform if Congressional Democrats decide to pay for it with women's health-care. Calling the amendment a "middle-class abortion ban," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said Wednesday that her organization would not support health-care reform with an amendment further limiting access to abortion. Meanwhile, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Diane Feinstein have begun 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 good for that."

"We're definitely hearing a lot of encouraging talk [about the Senate]," Donna Crane, public policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America, adds. "The Senate thinks the House went too far."

Sen. Ben Nelson has grabbed headlines with the announcement that he won't support the Senate healthcare reform bill unless it, too, bans coverage of abortion for any plan financed in part by affordability credits, but advocates were doubtful that he could get the 60 votes necessary to have the bill considered.

"If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it," Sen. Barbara Boxer told the Huffington Post. "It is a much more pro-choice Senate than it has been in a long time, and it is much more pro-choice than the House."

"Ben Nelson is looking for any excuse to vote against health-care reform," Rubiner says. "It's abortion today, it was the public plan yesterday."

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

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