By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Congresswoman Diana DeGette — a staunch supporter of health reform — said Monday she can’t vote for a health reform compromise if it contains an anti-abortion amendment.
The Denver Democrat sent a letter Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with at least 40 other signatures from pro-choice House Democrats, saying the Stupak-Pitts anti-abortion amendment attached Saturday to health reform legislation restricts a woman’s right to choose.
They say they will not vote for a conference committee report that contains similar language.
“We will not vote for a conference report that contains language that restricts women’s right to choose any further than current law,” states the letter.
The House bill narrowly backed this weekend would bar the federal government’s new public insurance plan from covering abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or if a mother’s life is in danger. Insurance companies that receive federal subsidies would also be prohibited from offering abortion coverage. Private insurers would be allowed to sell separate coverage for abortion if individuals use their private money.
DeGette — who voted for the health reform bill on Saturday because she didn’t want to “take this bill down because it was the beginning of the process,” according to a spokesman — points out that unlike other federal health programs such as Medicaid, the public option only creates a new insurance marketplace.
“The Stupak-Pitts amendment dramatically changes federal policies related to abortion coverage and undermines the principle of abortion neutrality in health care reform,” states a news release from DeGette’s office.
Local pro-life groups, however, say the Stupak-Pitts amendment doesn’t even go far enough. Keith Mason, co-founder of Arvada-based Personhood USA, does not view the amendment as being pro-life.
“This so-called pro-life bill is not pro-life at all,” said Mason, who is running several pro-life initiatives across the country, including in Colorado. “Most people think it would prohibit monies for abortions, but they forget that it’s written in the bill that monies will still be provided for abortions for rape, incest and for the life of the mother, and there’s no qualifications for that.”
Meanwhile, Denver Daily News political columnist Aaron Harber calls DeGette’s threat “positioning.” He says when it comes down to it, the congresswoman and other health reform supporters will support reform because it accomplishes what is deemed by Democrats to be the greater good.
He points out that the bill would remove anti-trust exemptions for health insurance companies, prohibit providers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, create a robust public option and extend insurance to 96 percent of Americans — a few aspects of the bill heavily supported by DeGette.
“Is Diana DeGette, as an active protest, going to say, ‘We’re winning on several major issues that we have made no progress on in decades, but I’m not getting some really important elements in this bill, what am I going to do?’” said Harber. “And my guess is, because she is a very astute legislator and because she understands the legislative process, she’s going to end up supporting that bill and the President, and what she’ll say is, ‘Three-quarters of a loaf is better than none, and we’re gonna find a way to bake the rest of the loaf.’”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters