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Congressman Bart Stupak says now is the time to make sure a health-care reform law does not allow federal funding of abortion.
BY Joan Frawley Desmond
Stupak warns that if language
restricting abortion funding is not included in healthcare reform legislation,
it will be very difficult to reverse the situation in the future.
57, is a Catholic and a pro-life Democrat. Elected in 1992 to serve Michigan’s First
District (consisting of the state’s upper peninsula and northern counties of
the lower peninsula), he is a member of the House Energy and Commerce
the week of Sept. 14, he vowed to vote against the House health-care reform
bill (H.R. 3200) if he is not allowed to offer a “more explicit” ban on federal
funding for plans that cover abortion services.
spoke with Register correspondent Joan Frawley Desmond Sept. 23 as the Senate
Finance Committee took up legislation on health-care reform.
promised to oppose the House bill if it doesn’t contain a “more explicit” ban
on federal funding for abortion coverage. Where does the legislative process
spoke to President Obama last week. Since we’ve been back this week, I’ve
spoken with the House leadership and those who support abortion in the public
option. They all want to talk now. We do see some movement, but there has been
no change in the language.
you assess the U.S. bishops’ effort to advance pro-life concerns in the
USCCB has been very effective. We have worked together to bring this to the
forefront. If we reach a resolution that includes an explicit ban on an
abortion mandate and federal funding, and the bishops are able to come out in
favor of health-care reform, that will help members of Congress and the public
understand the need for health-care benefits in this country. I would hope the
bishops would bring some clarity to the debate on end-of-life issues and help
seniors realize that preventive testing will be 100% covered.
Church has subtle ways for bringing forth support for legislation that is
outside the scope of politicians like myself. My pastor in Michigan had a
scriptural reflection in the parish bulletin that brought a different perspective
to health-care reform. ... The rich thought they were more deserving, but Jesus
spent time feeding the poor and healing the sick.
are all God’s children, and when we talk about health care, we have to ask:
“Are we taking care of our own concerns, or are we looking at the poor and the
sick, our brothers and sisters who don’t enjoy the same benefits?”
You knew it
would be a tough fight to keep abortion benefits and financing out of
health-reform legislation. What has been your strategy?
knew the Energy and Commerce Committee vote [on federal funding for abortion]
would be close. In appropriations bills, we have had the Mexico City language
and the Dornan language in place for a number of years. But this year, when we
tried to put the right-to-life amendments in the appropriation bills, we lost
when we go to the Rules Committee, we’d have a vote on the House floor. This is
the first year the Rules Committee hasn’t allowed us any pro-life amendment.
it becomes law, H.R. 3200 [as it is now written] will be the health policy for
the United States. The policy regarding public funding for abortion will no
longer be found in annual appropriations bills, but in H.R. 3200. That means
public funding for abortion will be allowed — and under public options: At
least one dollar of your money will go to supplement reproductive rights or
still hopeful that the right language can be inserted into the bill?
still have to go to the House Rules Committee. There we will ask that the Hyde
Amendment be put into the health-care bill. Since none of the right-to-life
amendments have been allowed, I don’t have much hope this will happen.
Obama has repeatedly insisted that he opposes any federal funding of abortion
as part of health-care reform legislation. What role is he likely to play now?
the president spoke to the nation on health care, he said that in “my
legislation” there will be no public funding of abortions. The problem is the
president hasn’t submitted a plan.
way the health-care legislative process has been developed, neither the Senate
nor the House bill will go anywhere without the approval of the president. He
will insert his demands into the process. The final bill is really the bill we
have to worry about. When I talked to the president the other day on this
issue, he assured me that when he spoke to the American people he was
expressing his plan that there will be no abortion funding — if Congress cannot
resolve it before it reaches him.
the president wants me to do is to continue to work with his legislative team.
The Democrats in the House should work this out, so he’s not making a final
decision. I have meetings with the Catholic bishops and other Catholic groups
to see if there is some avenue we can still explore.
of support have you received from Senate Democrats?
are a number of right-to-life senators, including Sen. Ben Nelson [of
Nebraska], who are also working on this. But we’re in the early stages; this is
where the intense negotiations take place. Last week, 30 of us in the House
said, “Give us the Hyde Amendment or we’re voting against the rule.” We believe
we have enough members, even pro-choice members, who feel we need the Hyde
Amendment. They do not think we should use public money. We’re early in the
process, but we’re keeping the pressure on to make sure there is no public
funding and an abortion mandate.
Joan Frawley Desmond writes
from Chevy Chase, Maryland.