Health reform could be hijacked by anti-abortion politics despite efforts at compromise — and some of Minnesota’s congressional delegates are in the thick of the debate. Reps. James Oberstar, Collin Peterson and Michele Bachmann have all been working to gut reproductive health funding from the health reform package moving through the House.
Democrats Peterson and Oberstar, who is chairman of the House Pro-life Caucus, have made known their opposition to any inclusion of funding for abortion services in the health care package rolled out by the House this month. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi they wrote that they’d vote against health reform that included such funding.
“As the debate on health care reform continues and legislation is produced, it is imperative that the issue of abortion not be overlooked,” they wrote. “Plans to mandate coverage for abortions, either directly or indirectly is unacceptable.”
Sixth District Republican Bachmann also spoke out against reproductive health funding in the health reform bill at a gathering of anti-abortion Republican women last week.
“The Obama adminstration is radical on the issue of abortion. President Obama has said the reproductive care is essential health care,” said Bachmann. “Will this now mean that we mandate that new abortion clinics would have to be built all across America?”
But Congress and Obama are looking for compromise on the issue. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is putting forward the “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act,” which would increase funding for teen pregnancy prevention, create an adoption tax credit, bolster after-school programs and increase medical, nutritional and financial support for low-income pregnant women.
The bill contains many of the policies championed by Obama for helping reduce the need for abortion.
“[W]e are increasingly concerned about potential roadblocks around the issue of abortion,” Ryan wrote in a letter to Pelosi. “With 45 million uninsured Americans, we want to make sure that disagreements over this often-contentious issue don’t threaten the success of the final health care reform package.”
But the anti-abortion crowd remains unswayed.
For his efforts at compromise, Ryan was “booted” from Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), an anti-abortion advocacy group for Democrats. (Oberstar is on the group’s federal advisory board, and both Oberstar and Peterson are on the board of the Minnesota chapter.)
Kristen Day of the DFLA wrote that the organization “gave Congressman Ryan ample opportunities to prove he’s committed to protecting life but he has turned his back on the community at every turn… For now, pro-life Democrats have lost a promising, rising star to the pro-choice movement.”
Ryan got into hot water with the group in 2006 for introducing a similar bill. Oberstar, one of many moderates that the bill was designed to win over, said at the time he would not support Ryan’s bill.
And the religious right aren’t giving the bill consideration.
“This misbegotten measure contains no funding for abstinence programs nor anything to encourage teens and young adults to refrain from risky sexual behavior,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “Nothing in the bill would strengthen parental involvement in the decision of minors to have abortion, which is a bipartisan way to reduce abortion among teens. No pro-life groups support this legislation, which seems designed to give some Democrats in politically challenging congressional districts the cover they need against charges they support abortion-on-demand.”
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