The Whining Over Pro-Life Democrats and Health Care Reform.

I don't know who appointed Steven Waldman the Democratic Party's chief adviser on abortion issues, but he is at it again at BeliefNet, expressing shock and dismay that the party leadership isn't sufficiently coddling its (minority) pro-life caucus. At the Democratic National Convention last year, on a panel on faith and the party, Waldman declared that Democrats should “have a new position on abortion” in order to win over religious voters.

This week, he castigates the "ineptitude" of the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not having met with the 40 pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak, who apparently think that the health care amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps is inadequate to insure that not one single penny of taxpayer dollars might pay for an insurance plan that might pay for a woman's abortion (even if the taxpayer dollars don't pay for the abortion itself). Waldman is relying on David Kirkpatrick's reporting in the Times this week, in which Stupak claimed that he just got the White House's and House leadership's attention on this issue.

Let's review a few things. Here's the official Democratic Party position: "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." Rep. Capps introduced an amendment which would segregate public and private funds so that only private funds were used to pay for abortions. That has not been adequate for pro-lifers who have claimed that's an "accounting loophole." Instead of focusing on getting health care passed for the tens of millions of adults and children without it, Stupak and his pro-life Democratic allies are playing the Republicans' game to derail it.

Waldman wants the Democrats to satisfy the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which claims it will support a health reform bill if it contains a clear and unequivocal ban on abortion coverage. Once again, Waldman is reading the official Catholic line as if it is representative of all Catholics. But a new poll out today from Catholics for Choice shows that 68 percent of Catholics polled "disapprove of US bishops saying that all Catholics should oppose the entire healthcare reform plan if it includes coverage for abortion." Fifty-six percent think the Bishops shouldn't even take a position on health care reform.

David Brody reports this morning that Pelosi met with Stupak and held her ground that the Capps Amendment ensures the "status quo" -- that federal funds will not go to pay for abortions. That seems consistent with what is happening on the Senate side, where the Finance Committee voted down an amendment introduced by Republican Orrin Hatch to prohibit public money funding any part of any insurance plan that covers abortion.

--Sarah Posner

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