Democratic Abortion Foe On Health Care Measure

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Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) says he is concerned the health care bill could contain what he deems lax language on abortion. But he says he's waiting to see the final language in the bill before he decides on his vote. Stupak says he won't support a measure that changes current law on federal funding of abortions.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THING CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

President Obama is pressing Democrats on Capitol Hill hard to get a health care overhaul bill passed as quickly as possible. He called two groups of House Democrats to the White House today to shore up support. But moving quickly could be a bit more challenge today as some key Democrats in the House are reluctant to embrace the president's plan.

BLOCK: One House Democrat who voted for the health care overhaul bill last year, but now says he needs to see the fine print is Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan. His concern is whether federal dollars would be used to cover abortion.

Representative BART STUPAK (Democrat, Michigan): The bill we're going to be voting on still is not written. So, we're still waiting to see the language. But it's our understanding the president's proposal for health care is going to be off the Senate bill. And in the Senate bill, on pages 2,069 through 2,078 is language in there which basically says that your federal tax subsidies can be used to pay for abortion coverage. That's contrary to current federal law. Secondly, it says that those enrolled in certain plans and receive certain credits must pay a minimum of $1 per month per enrollee into a fund for reproductive services which include abortion.

So, those are two major differences in which the Senate bill actually is different from current federal law. Current federal law says no federal funding for abortion. And we just want to keep current law.

BLOCK: Well, let me stop you there because of course you know that the president and the health secretary both say there will be no federal funding for abortion, that this law preserves the status quo and that you're really misreading what's in the language in that Senate bill.

Rep. STUPAK: Well, I don't think I misread it. I sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee where loss caps injected the same language - the same language in the House bill. So, no, I sat through the committees. It's very clear. The groups such as the Catholic Bishops, the Right to Life were all reading the language the same way. This is a drastic, radical departure from current federal law which says no public funding for abortion.

BLOCK: Congressman Stupak, we said at the beginning that you - back when the House voted last year, you supported the health care overhaul bill. Presumably you favor the broad goals of what reformers are trying to do here. Would you be willing to trade off the wider benefits, coverage for maybe 30 million people on this one issue?

Rep. STUPAK: Trade it off? No. No. We want the bill that says no public funding for abortion and that's the principle we're going to stand on.

BLOCK: But if there's a bill before you that does not have that language in it, you would be a no vote on that.

Rep. STUPAK: There are certain principles and values you just don't trade.

BLOCK: Do you think you have enough support among your fellow Democrats in the House if this language is not there to defeat the bill?

Rep. STUPAK: No one's trying to defeat the bill. What we're trying to do is maintain current language. I know you'd like me to say that I'm going to vote against the bill. It's hard for me to say I'm going to vote against a bill when you're never seeing the bill. And I'm one of those members and there's others. We take our time. We'll read the legislation. We'll check it out.

BLOCK: Congressman Stupak, thank you very much.

Rep. STUPAK: You betcha.

BLOCK: That's Congressman Burt Stupak of Michigan.

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