Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Senate Doesn't Wear 'I'm With Stupak' T-Shirt

Today, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) is smiling. (Flickr/jdlasica)

The Senate released its health care bill last night, named the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (you can read it yourself, in PDF form). The Senate bill has some things about abortion that give the pro-choice community hope after the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

The New York Times has a nice side-by-side comparison of the two bills, and on abortion, the Senate bill looks much closer to what the pro-choice community was pushing for initially in the House bill -- closer to what's called the Capps amendment. Huffington Post reports that Capps herself is somewhat happy with the Senate compromise. "'I am pleased that the Senate has adopted a reasonable, common ground approach on this difficult question,' she said in a statement."

The Senate bill allows insurers to decide if they want to include abortion in each plan (much as they do now, and 87 percent of private plans already choose to provide such coverage). The Senate plan also says that private plans that receive federal subsidies to make the plans more affordable to individuals can provide abortion coverage, so long as they don't use the federal money to pay for the abortion coverage. The Senate bill also allows the public option to provide abortion, again, as long as it federal dollars aren't used to pay for it.

Under the Senate bill, each state is required to have at least one plan that provides abortion coverage and at least one plan does not include abortion coverage.

But, as Eleanor Clift pointed out at Newsweek, the abortion fight isn't over yet:
There are two numbers to watch: (1) Can an anti-abortion amendment offered by, say, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, or pro-life Democrat Bob Casey, get 60 votes? Probably not, but Reid will have to get 60 votes to even proceed with debate on the bill. (2) Getting that 60 could mean putting stronger anti-abortion language in the bill to get those red-state Democrats.
But in the meantime, the pro-life community is pretty mad. The National Right to Life, one of the biggest pro-life groups in America, said in a statement that the Senate bill "substituted completely unacceptable language that would result in coverage of abortion on demand in two big new federal government programs ... National Right to Life will continue to fight for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment."

There's also funding set aside for abstinence only education:
Leave it to the United States Senate to prove my prediction slightly off. Their provision would restore a program called Title V, which, since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, has allocated a yearly $50 million in grants to abstinence-only education programs. Obama let the program lapse in June, leaving some abstinence-only groups in dire straits. So in September, Sen. Orrin Hatch offered an amendment to restore Title V via heath-care reform, which (much to the outrage of liberal groups) just squeaked through the Senate Finance Committee with a 12–11 vote. A similar amendment, offered in the House by Rep. Terry Lee from Nebraska, died in committee.

If the Senate language survives reconciliation, the Title V program will be extended through 2014. This will not, however, bring abstinence funding back to the levels of the past decade. In 2008, Title V grants accounted for just under 25 percent of the federal abstinence budget (the rest of the budget came from other abstinence-only funding sources not restored in the Senate bill, including Community Based Abstinence Education Grants and the Adolescent Family Life Act).
On another reproductive health front, abstinence only groups are declaring victory. “It is encouraging that the hard work of grassroots constituencies from across the country have prevailed to ensure these common-sense programs will continue,” said executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, Valerie Huber to The Americano. But abstinence-only programming has been scientifically proven to be ineffective.

UPDATE: Jodi Jacobson over at RH Reality Check has a more in-depth look at abortion in the Senate health care bill.

Cross posted.

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