At a press conference on Capitol Hill this afternoon, Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) wouldn't say if she would allow a floor vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment to prohibit abortion coverage from the public health-care plan and private plans subsidized by taxpayer dollars.
"The bill is exactly silent on abortion," Rep. Slaughter said. "We think the silence in this bill is terribly important."
Asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD if she would commit to a rule allowing an up or down vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment, Slaughter said:
I'm not going to commit myself to voting for anything today, if that's what you're trying to get me to do. But to my knowledge there is nothing that specifies abortion to be allowed--as a matter of fact federal funds cannot be used to provide for abortion--under the Hyde Amendment[*] that's been in place for a very long time."
She added: "There's no point of putting all that into this bill as long as the conscience clause is there."
Contrary to Slaguther's assertion, the House health-care bill is not "silent" on abortion. The Capps amendment, passed by the Energy and Commerce committee, allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to provide abortion coverage through the "public plan", and requires that people on taxpayer-subsidized insurance plans in the federal exchange have access to a plan that covers elective abortions.
The slightly-less misleading Democratic talking point, reported credulously as a "fact-check" by First Read is that: "In the House legislation, no federal funds would be used to pay for abortions; if a woman wants an abortion under her plan, the money would come from her insurance premiums."
So, say an individual pays $500 toward an insurance policy and the government pays $5,000. When the bill comes due for the abortion, supposedly the $500 in premiums are going to pay the abortionist. Right.
"Remember to Pay the Abortionist From That Private Pile of Money" Reason's Jacob Sullum (no fire-breathing theocon) titles his blog post, concluding that "The Democrats might as well tell the anti-abortion taxpayer that they won't use his money to kill fetuses, which will be done only with money from taxpayers who have no compunctions about the procedure."
Currently federal employers are not allowed to choose a health-care plan provided by their employer that covers abortion. Stupak and Pitts remain determined to bring their amendment to a full vote on the House floor. Will Nancy Pelosi support this exercise in democracy?
*Update: A friend points out something I should have noted in my original post: The Hyde amendment only prohibits funding of abortions through Medicaid.