Fueled by a written assurance from the White House, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and at least six other anti-abortion Democrats have decided to vote for the sweeping healthcare bill--bringing the tally beyond the 216 votes needed to pass the legislation.
Obama order sways abortion foes, ensuring Dems have enough votes
At a press conference, Stupak said an executive order issued by President Barack Obama provides additional safeguards to ensure that long-standing restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion are enforced.
“With the help of the president, the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi), we've come to an agreement to protect the sanctity of life through reform, that there will be no public funding of abortion in this legislation,” said Stupak, who was flanked by six other anti-abortion Democrats, including Reps. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). Rahall called the healthcare reform bill “the most pro-life piece of legislation I'll be voting for in my 34 years in Congress.”
Their support puts the vote count for the bill “well past 216,” Stupak said. At least seven anti-abortion members have changed their vote to “yes” for the bill, although Stupak said approximately 10 were involved in the negotiations on the abortion funding agreement. He could not confirm how many members in total have changed their vote in support of the bill.
"We've always said we wanted to see healthcare reform,” he continued, although he and other anti-abortion members have argued continuously that the Senate-passed bill slated for a final vote later this evening failed to contain strong enough language to ban federal funding of abortion.
Stupak summarized the specific concerns raised by anti-abortion groups over the reform package, that abortions could potentially be performed at community health centers, or that new funds being appropriated for these health centers could be used to pay for abortions.
“The executive order makes it clear that won't happen,” Stupak said, adding that the “conscience clause” laws would continue to be enforced. The laws enable healthcare providers to refrain from providing certain medical services for reasons of religion or conscience.
Stupak said the president has no plans to rescind the executive order. “The president didn't sign it to rip it up tomorrow,” he said.
White House Spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement that while the healthcare bill maintains current law, “the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the healthcare legislation's restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.”
The order may not be enough to appease Catholic bishops, yet Stupak said he hoped to pursue statutory language in the future to enforce the ban on abortion funding.
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