Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Sunday he has reached an agreement with the White House to secure an executive order from President Obama specifically stating that no funds from the pending health care bill will be used for abortion services. The agreement clears the way for Democrats to pass their sweeping health care reform package by at least 216 votes.
"I'm pleased to announced that we have an agreement," Stupak said at a Capitol Hill press conference. "With the help of the president and the speaker, we were able to come to an agreement to protect the sanctity of life in health care reform. There will be no public funding of abortion in this legislation."
According to Stupak, President Obama will sign the executive order Sunday declaring that the existing Hyde amendment, which specifically states that no federal funding may be used for abortion services, will apply to any new agency, health center, insurance coverage, or health care services created by the pending legislation.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said Obama would issue the order after the passage of the health insurance reform law and that it "will reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion."
"While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation's restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented," Pfeiffer said.
Without language addressing the question of abortion funding in the bill, Stupak and his coalition of pro-life Democrats said they would have voted against the measure when it comes to a vote Sunday night. Although some anti-abortion Democrats had agreed to vote for the House bill before Sunday, it became clear that the remaining hold-outs were enough to bring down the entire $940 billion measure.
"We wanted to see health care reform," Stupak said. "But there was a principle that mattered more to us than anything and that was the sanctity of life."
As recently as Saturday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been in negotiations with Stupak to allow him to introduce an amendment to the health care package with specific restrictions on abortion funding in the bill. But Pelosi came out of meetings late in the day to say that no amendments would be offered on any subject. "The bill is the bill," she said.
Democratic leaders met with members of the abortion rights caucus Sunday afternoon as well as the anti-abortion members, to ensure that both sides would support the language in the executive order. "There's deep interest on the part of everyone," said Rep. Xavier Bacerra (D.), who supports abortion rights and participated in he meetings. "This is big, so it's reasonable to expect everyone to want to have a clear understanding."
House Minority Leader John Boehner said that Obama's executive order "would not be worth the paper it's written on," and accused Democratic leaders of an attempt "to provide political cover for wavering Democrats who profess to be pro-life."