From POLITICAL HOTSHEET at CBS NEWS:
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the legislator who has led a group of House Democrats who oppose the Senate health care bill because of its abortion language, says his life has become a “living hell” because of the debate.
His congressional offices have been inundated with phone calls, e-mails and more than 1,500 faxes on the issue — most from people outside of his district, Stupak said.
Stupak has insisted the Democrats’ health care bill should include language to ensure that federal dollars are not used to fund abortions. He managed to get Democratic leaders to add strict language to the House health care bill limiting abortion coverage, and the Senate bill added similar language.
Stupak says, however, that the Senate health care bill does not go far enough, and he claims there are about a dozen Democrats who will vote against the Senate bill with him.
A number of legislators and advocacy groups disagree with Stupak, including leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns who announced yesterday they find the Senate bill’s abortion language acceptable.
A couple of other anti-abortion rights House Democrats — Reps. Dale Kildee of Michigan and James Oberstar of Minnesota — also said yesterday they are reassured the Senate language is acceptable. Kildee plans to vote for the bill; Oberstar initially said he would vote yes, but his spokesperson told the New York Times that Oberstar was “a strong likely yes.”
Stupak told the Hill, however, that he still has 12 House Democrats willing to vote against the Senate bill because of the abortion language.
From Joan Walsh at Salon:
I’m not a huge admirer of Rep. Bart Stupak, who tacked an amendment onto the House version of healthcare reform that went way beyond what was needed to make sure federal insurance subsidies aren’t spent on abortion. The Senate passed slightly less restrictive language. It forces women to purchase “special” abortion coverage with their own funds, which effectively prevents anyone getting public subsidies from having abortion covered, since by its nature abortion represents an unplanned event. We all know the odds are high we’ll get sick and need healthcare one day; not so when it comes to abortion. “Abortion insurance” is sort of a contradiction in terms.
But that’s not enough for Stupak; he wants his original language restored to the House bill. That’s a sure way to scuttle the bill, since the House can’t change the Senate bill without sending it back to the Senate for another vote, where Sen. Scott Brown has vowed to torpedo it. I can’t tell if Stupak just isn’t smart enough to realize the bill already does what he wants it to do, or whether he’s deliberately trying to kill the bill, in concert with his C Street Republican friends. [...] But he went beyond what was necessary, yesterday and today, in disrespecting the 60 Catholic nuns representing 59,000 sisters who bucked the Catholic bishops and came out for the bill Wednesday, declaring it “the real pro-life position.”
“When I’m drafting right-to-life language, I don’t call up the nuns,” Stupak told Fox News. Instead he said he consulted “leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and the National Right to Life Committee.” Thursday, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” he repeated his dismissal of nuns’ opinions, insisting he listens only to the bishops and that he’s never even been lobbied by nuns.
There was a way for Stupak to say he disagreed with the nuns without condescending to them, but two days in a row, he didn’t find it. [...] He joins the patriarchal leaders of the Catholic Church who never listen to the voices of women, either, and he’s proud of that.
So is Catholic League blowhard Bill Donohue, who released a statement saying only the bishops could speak for the Catholic Church. Not only the nuns but the Catholic Health Association disagree with Donohue and Stupak, joining the push to pass the bill.