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Stupak to retire

Yet another Democrat has walked the plank.  Stupak, however, was instrumental in the final days of the healthcare debate as his group of 12 was whittled down to 6.  And an “agreement” between his group of ostensibly pro-life Democrats and the Administration regarding use of federal funds for abortion coverage ultimately turned the tide.  His group provided the final needed votes that passed healthcare reform. 

Since the vote Stupak has been under intense pressure and his reelection to office was in grave doubt.  On Wednesday he hinted that he would forgo the fight and retire and today he is reporting he will indeed do that.  The pressure he’s been under is specifically related to the “deal” struck with the administration had President Obama sign an executive order that “clarified” the administration’s view on the use of federal funds for abortion.  The problem with that of course is that while executive orders can often have the weight of law, when they run directly afoul of actual laws they have no impact.  In this case there is specific language in the Healthcare reform law detailing how funds are to be used for abortion.  And that language erects a shell-game.  Specifically the law:

  • Establish a mechanism for permitting the funding of elective abortions by private health plans that receive federal subsidies in the form of premium tax credits. The bill creates a policy of segregating funds that presumptively keeps the premium payment for the overall plan separate from a premium of not less than $1 per month per subscriber that pays for elective abortions. All enrollees in these plans would be required to make both types of premium payments, irrespective of age, sex, or family status.
  • Directly appropriate $7 billion over five years in operating funds for FQHCs. Because these funds would not need to be included in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Labor and HHS, and because the underlying statute includes no limitation on abortion funding, these funds—as well as $1.5 billion in appropriations for the National Health Service Corps and $1.5 billion for FQHC construction and renovation—could be used to pay directly for elective abortions and to expand abortion facilities.
  • Require OPM to contract with private insurers to offer at least two multi-state health insurance plans in each state. By law, at least one of these plans must exclude abortion coverage, but OPM will have discretion to organize and promote the other multi-state plan so that it includes elective abortion coverage. This multi-state plan would be governed by the same “segregation of funds” device that would oblige every enrollee in these plans to pay not less than $1 per month for abortion coverage. This abortion premium would be executed by check or even a separate monthly payroll deduction for abortion.
  • Leave to the discretion of HHS whether a mandate for “preventative services” for women under the bill could be interpreted to include elective abortions. Efforts to include language clarifying that this does not include abortion were rebuffed.
  • Leave unanswered whether its non-preemption provisions include state laws on abortion beyond those specifically enumerated in the bill. State laws on abortion funding and parental notification and consent are specifically protected from preemption. The Senate bill is silent on whether it could be construed to preempt these state laws regarding such topics as late-term abortions.
  • Stupak and his group knew all this of course, but because of the intense pressure being exerted on them to vote with the majority they needed a veil — however thin — to cover them.  Unfortunately for them the public saw through it and Stupak had little hope of winning reelection in a region barely won by Obama in 2008.

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