Fewer questions will yield more impassioned answers than this one: How do you feel about abortion? When asked, a little more than half the population will support a woman’s right to choose and a little under half will be against abortion in all, or almost all, circumstances.
While abortion wasn’t the vogue political issue in 2008, it’s making a comeback in the health care debate. In the waning hours of the health care push in the House, Representative Bart Stupak (D-Mich) introduced and passed an amendment to the bill that prohibits the use of federal subsidies to pay for insurance that covers abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is threatened.
Now the Senate bill might not include such a measure, but at the end of the day, whether it’s on the floor of the Senate or in conference, the abortion issue has to be addressed. The Democratic leadership is between a rock and hard place, either allow the provision and risk losing votes on the Left or kill it and lose votes on the Right.
The midterm elections are looming, and allowing federal dollars to pay for abortions is not good politics. President Obama won 53 percent of the Catholic vote, which tends to be heavily pro-life, last November and quite a few members of Congress owe their victory to his coattails. Alienating even half of that voting bloc is very dangerous for Democrats, who won’t have the Obama bump in 2010.
So Democrats in Congress have to answer the question, “What’s more important, principle or re-election?” If history has taught us anything, they’ll choose the latter.
Assuming they choose re-election, the bill will include Stupak’s abortion provision. However, such a provision is likely to cost the bill several ardent abortion rights advocates.
You can do the math. The bill only passed the House by three votes, and it needs 60 to pass the Senate. It will only take a small handful of pro-choice legislators to derail this bill, and if derailed, the president’s re-election will be anything but certain.
Now Democrats in Congress have another question, “What’s more important, principle or the President’s re-election?” For that matter, the president has to answer the same question.
So while no one was watching on a Saturday night, someone named Bart Stupak drew a line in the sand that stretches from Washington to the Pacific Ocean. This line could tear apart the coalition that sent President Obama to Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008, because while we weren’t looking, abortion made a comeback.