Stupak Amendment Debate Coverage & Results

By Christine Cupaiuolo — November 8, 2009

The House is debating the Stupak amendment limiting access to abortion services — you can watch it on, or follow along on the Twitters (hashtag #stupak), where many of us are quoting the representatives for and against. I’m @cmc2

For more background, read “Abortion Fight Erupts in Health Care Debate” at The New York Times, and “House Democrats Will Consider Stupak’s Abortion Amendment On The Floor” at Think Progress’ Wonk Room.

And in case the current House bill’s provisions on abortion are in doubt, read Maggie Mahar’s analysis: “The fact of the matter is that the House bill contains more than two dozen references to abortion and virtually all of them describe how insurers can restrict or deny coverage for the procedure.”

Update: Amendment passed 240-194-1 (Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona cast the lone “present” vote). A surprising number of Democrats — 64 — joined Republicans in passing the amendment. View the roll call here.

Jodi Jacobson just posted a piece at RH Reality Check that begins:

Tonight, with the aide of some 60 Democrats, women’s rights were effectively negated by the US Congress as the House passed the Stupak amendment to HR 3200, the Affordable Health Care Act of 2009.

More in-depth analysis of how we got here is forthcoming. But one thing is clear: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) apparently is running the US government, aided by a cadre of “faith-based advocacy groups,” the House Democratic leadership, the White House and members of the Senate.

Remember, this amendment is not a done deal. It still has to pass Senate and then survive the conference committee, and women’s groups are already mulling action in the weeks to come. But what a sad day it is when the only way to gain health care coverage is to lose a legitimate, legal health care procedure.

Another distressing point: The New York Times reports that only one male lawmaker — Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York — joined women who spoke against the amendment on the House floor. A correction, however, is in order: My own Congressman here in Chicago, Mike Quigley, also spoke out (cheers!). But that may have been it.

Here, from the Times, are bits of what other lawmakers said during the debate:

Representing the abortion-rights segments of the Democratic membership, Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado called the amendment a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that would deny women access to care. Representative Lois Capps of California argued that the underlying bill already prohibited federal financing of abortions. The amendment, she said, “Actually restricts coverage of a legal medical procedure.”

“Not one other medical procedure is singled out for rationing” in the larger bill, she said.

Others contended that this amendment would result in women having to go out and buy insurance that would cover such a procedure, a prospect one lawmaker scoffed at, saying a woman does not plan for an unplanned pregnancy.

Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat of New York, called it “a disappointing distraction” from the main event. Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, said the amendment would take women “one step back” toward the dark days of back-alley abortions. Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, said, “We should not be injecting this divisive and polarizing issue into our debate.”

And the full speech by Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois:

This Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes way beyond current law. It says a woman cannot purchase coverage that includes abortion services using her own dollars — even middle-class women using exclusively their own money will be prohibited from purchasing a plan including abortion coverage in every single public or private insurance plan in the new Health Care Exchange.

Her only option is to buy a seperate insurance policy that covers an abortion — a ridiculous and unworkable approach since no woman plans an unplanned pregnancy.

This amendment is a radical departure from current law that will result in million of women losing the coverage they already have. Our bill is about lowering health care costs for millions of women and their families, not for further marginalizing women by forcing them to pay more for their care. This amendment is a disservice and an insult to millions of women throughout the country, and I urge a NO vote on this amendment.

These strong responses ultimately weren’t enough to kill the amendment, but they did serve as a reminder of the urgency of electing more pro-choice women to Congress. Anyone else have points to share?

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