While opponents of abortion rights celebrated the restriction on abortion coverage the House included in its version of the health care bill, groups supporting a woman's right to choose worried about what the provision means to the wider spectrum of abortion rights and what the Senate would include in its version of the bill.
Added just before the House passed the bill on Saturday, the Stupak amendment states that federal money cannot be used to pay for insurance plans that cover abortions not performed for medical reasons or in situations involving sexual assault. Because federal subsidies would be used to help low- and middle-income people pay for abortions, some feared the ban would motivate insurers to drop elective abortion benefits from their plans to reach a broader market. Women choosing to have an elective abortion would have to pay for the procedure themselves or purchase supplemental coverage, although the latter suggests women would plan for an unwanted pregnancy.
Missouri is one of five states that already prohibits private insurance plans from including elective abortion coverage. Abortion rights supporter Sen. Claire McCaskill said the Stupak amendment is an example of concessions the more liberal members of her party must make to govern with moderate and conservative Democrats whose support she says is key to the Democratic party's majority status.
Named for its author Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich, the amendment is more restrictive than the option House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders preferred. That option included an accounting structure that would require plans covering elective abortions to store federal money and premiums and co-pays used to purchase the plan into two separate accounts. The federal money could not be used to pay for the procedure.
President Barack Obama said the House needed to change the bill to keep the current principle is in place. Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Colo., and Louise Slaughter, N.Y., led the group that wrote to Nancy Pelosi vowing not to back a final conference report that restricted women's right to choose.
The provision in the House bill may make it more difficult for abortion rights advocates to get favorable legislation in the Senate version of the health care bill, but the majority of senators' records support abortion rights.
How significant a victory is the Stupak amendment for anti-abortion groups?