Is Stupak Really Willing to Make an Abortion Compromise?

Would Democrat Bart Stupak really vote against the health-care bill if it contains the existing language on abortion? The Michigan representative has raised alarm bells among liberals for threatening to derail the House bill if certain abortion-related provisions aren't taken out. The Democratic leadership claims that the bill contains multiple restrictions to prevent the federal funding of abortions and restrict access -- measures that have actually raised the hackles of leading pro-choice organizations. But Stupak claims the bill doesn’t go far enough, as it still gives subsidies to individuals who could have access to insurance plans that cover abortions -- even the Capps amendment sets up a firewall to prevent subsidy money from going to abortions. Stupak's now trying to prohibit any coverage of abortions within the exchanges. Last week, he claimed that 39 other House Democrats supported his effort to strip out the provisions. And on Friday, Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) added a few to the tally, claiming that it had gotten commitments from 43 House Democrats who said they'd oppose the bill if Stupak "is not allowed to offer his amendment or his language is not included," according to the right-leaning CNS News.

But DFLA's straw poll brings a notable distinction to light -- the difference between opposing the bill if the amendment's not brought to the floor, and opposing the bill if the abortion language is in there at all, no matter what votes are taken. And Stupak has put himself firmly in the first camp, as he explained at an Oct. 24 town hall:

If everything I want [is] in the final bill, I like everything in the bill except you have public funding for abortion, and we had a chance to run our amendment and we lost. OK, I voted my conscience, stayed true to my principles, stayed true to the beliefs of this district, could I vote for healthcare? Yes I still could.

Stupak's response drew jeers from the crowd, and conservative media outlets immediately assailed him for not taking a harder line. Fox News accused him of "trying to have it both ways," and Life Site News quoted a source calling the comments a "game-changer" and a "disaster."

At the least, Stupak's remarks underscore the fact that he isn't dead-set upon opposing the bill -- and that a compromise is within reasonable striking distance. As RH Reality Check points out, Stupak conferred with Henry Waxman about abortion issues in the bill back in July. The details of a current compromise have yet to surface. But if it's true that Stupak's effort is gaining steam, Nancy Pelosi will surely try to hurry the deal-making along.

--Suzy Khimm