Abortion issue hard to avoid in healthcare debate
Like it or not, the healthcare debate has turned into a fracas over abortion rights.
But getting the votes to pass the historic legislation on Saturday boiled down to settling a dispute between pro-choice and pro-life forces over abortion.
Abortion foes won. The House passed an amendment restricting the availability of insurance policies that include elective abortion services even though many medical plans currently offer such coverage.
The debate over abortion highlights broader questions surrounding the government’s reach in healthcare. Once the government starts subsidizing insurance premiums, it will dictate what can and cannot be included in that coverage.
Democrat Congressman Louis Capps underscored that in arguing the amendment “will mean more women will have their reproductive health choices made by politicians and anti-choice zealots in Washington, DC, instead of by themselves and their doctors.”
With abortion-rights supporters vowing to strip the amendment out of the bill as it moves through the legislative process, the debate now shifts over to the Senate.
Senate Democratic leaders are struggling to build enough support for the healthcare overhaul to overcome procedural hurdles that stand in the way of major legislation.
The biggest point of contention has been whether the government should offer a new health plan option. But the abortion debate will likely prove impossible to avoid.
Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, acknowledged the issue will come up when the Senate takes up healthcare reform possibly as early as next week.
“It is an issue that we are going to have to deal with over here,” he said. “Senator Reid will need to talk to his caucus about how to proceed.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas ( U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following House vote on healthcare reform legislation)