Dems keep pressure on Stupak over healthcare bill and abortion concerns

Abortion continued to loom Sunday as the thorny issue that could paralyze the momentum of healthcare reform efforts in the home stretch.

Across the Sunday morning shows, lawmakers took sides over whether the final healthcare bill contains language that would allow people receiving government subsidized healthcare to obtain an abortion, and a White House official accused abortion opponent Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) of being "misinformed" about the Senate bill.

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The issue could stall healthcare talks and ultimately the final vote, as it did last November when Stupak held up the chamber’s initial version of the bill and demanded the inclusion of an amendment barring federal funds from being used for abortions in exchange for the votes of 64 Democrats, most of whom had indicated that they would not otherwise have voted for the overall measure.

On Sunday, Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who voted against the House’s healthcare bill, said that once again, if the similar abortion language is allowed into the final version of the bill, the House may not have the votes to pass it.

“Given the vote dynamic, abortion may be the divisive issue,” said Altmire on "Fox News Sunday."

“There’s a block of voters who voted for the Stupak amendment…who say they’re not going to vote for the finished product unless they tighten the abortion language that’s in the Senate bill, so we may see some vote holdouts based on that issue,” Altmire said.

Earlier in the week, Stupak promised that he and a small coalition of Democrats stood ready to derail the House’s upcoming final vote on the healthcare legislation if their anti-abortion requirements were not met. 

"I want to see healthcare pass," Stupak said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "We must have healthcare but, boy, there are some principles and beliefs that some of us are not going to pass.

"We're prepared to take the responsibility. I mean, I've been catching it ever since last fall. Let's face it, I want to see healthcare. But we're not going to bypass some principles and beliefs that we feel strongly about."

On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Dems were continuing to work on Stupak, who has said he could take a dozen Dems into the "no" category with disgreements over abortion language in the final bill.

"We are going to continue to work with Bart Stupak, and those members for whom that was the biggest concern," Van Hollen said. "Because you have in the Senate pro-life members like Sen. Casey, Sen. Nelson, all of whom were clearly satisfied that the way the Senate did it met our objective of making sure that no public funds can go to abortion.

"The issue is, what can you use your own money for?" Van Hollen added. "In other words, right now today, if you want to go out with your own money and purchase a healthcare plan, you have that option."

When pressed by host Candy Crowley about whether Dems had lost Stupak and his allied congressmen, Van Hollen was cautiously optimistic.

"I don't think we have lost -- well, obviously, Bart Stupak as of today says he is not satisfied," Van Hollen said. "We will continue to explore ways to get it done. But as has been made clear by the parliamentarian under the reconciliation process, the majority rule process, there are limits to the changes you can make in the Senate bill. So this is going to be a discussion, and we are going to be engaged in that dialogue for some time until we get it done."

Also last week, Stupak said on MSNBC that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was "incorrect" when saying "there is no public funding of abortion in these bills."

"In the Senate bill it says you must offer insurance policies that will be paid for by the federal government that covers abortion. You must do so," Stupak said.



"Also, in that same language, if you come in the Senate version, in the OPM, Office of Personnel Management policy they will put forth you must pay every enrollee must pay $1 per month into a fund to help fund abortions," Stupak added. "It's very clear."


On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was shown those statements and asked whether the Senate bill would be fixed to ensure no federal money pays for abortions.

"There is no federal money paying for abortions," Sebelius said. "That's just not my statement, it is what, you know, a legal analyst who has looked at the Senate bill, it's what the fact checkers who look at the statements say. I don't think there's any disagreement. ... Congressman Stupak and the president agree that there should be no federal funding for abortion.

"I think people will continue to talk to him," Sebelius added. "...I think he is misinformed about what the Senate language does but he wants comprehensive health reform. I know that he has this principled issue."

On ABC's "This Week," Sebelius said, "Yes, abortion services are provided, and people will pay out of their own pockets, in both the Senate and the House, but they do it in slightly different ways."