Progressives have been angry over the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which imposes strict restrictions on abortion coverage, in the House's healthcare reform bill. But they were at least cheered to see that the Senate's language was much more moderate. Now, though, there's more bad news for supporters of abortion rights: One senator, a pivotal player in the whole debate, wants to add something like the Stupak amendment to the Senate's legislation.
That would be Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who told reporters on Tuesday, "I'm working on an abortion amendment. It's as identical to Stupak as it can be."
Under the Stupak amendment, women who receive federal subsidies couldn't buy a plan that covers abortion -- though they could purchase additional coverage with their own money. (Opponents of the language point out that this means people planning for unplanned pregnancies.) The Senate bill, as currently written, allows women to buy plans that cover abortion even if they're getting federal aid, but the insurers would have to segregate public and private money and use only the latter to actually pay for the procedure. Additionally, any public option would be able to offer abortion coverage, as long as federal money wasn't used to pay for it -- the Stupak amendment prohibits the public option from providing the coverage at all.
The good news for the pro-choice movement is that Nelson probably doesn't have the votes to add his amendment to the Senate bill. But this issue isn't going away yet.