Last Friday night, Rep. Bart Stupak put forward a final compromise to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would have prohibited abortion coverage in the public plan but would have allowed an annual vote on the abortion ban for the private plans. Pro-choice Democrats rejected this, and the stronger version of the Michigan Democrat's proposal then passed.
What happens now? Democratic supporters of abortion rights need to accept that their House majority depends on a large cadre of antiabortion colleagues. They can denounce that reality or they can learn to live with it.
There is also a challenge for abortion's foes, above all the Catholic bishops who have a long history of supporting universal coverage but devoted most of their recent energy to the abortion battle. How much muscle will the bishops put behind the broader effort to pass health-care reform? Their credibility as advocates for social justice hangs in the balance.
And if the Senate forces a change in the Stupak language, one obvious approach would involve a ban on abortion in the public plan -- if such an option survives -- and the application of Ellsworth's rules to the private policies sold in the insurance exchange. The alternative would be Stupak's original compromise offer to Pelosi. There are not many other options.
The truth is that even with the Stupak restrictions, health-care reform would leave millions of Americans far better off than they are now -- including millions of women. This skirmish over abortion cannot be allowed to destroy the opportunity to extend coverage to 35 million Americans. Killing health-care reform would be bad for choice -- and very bad for the right to life.
(Read the full-length Nov. 12 article.)