What does the Stupak abortion funding deal really mean? Comments are starting to come in from across the political spectrum and -- no surprise! -- there are sharply different perspectives being voiced.
Former Vt. Governor and National Democratic Chair Howard Dean, speaking on MSNBC just after Stupak's press conference, said the President's executive order will only reaffirm what is already in the Senate health reform bill -- that no federal funds can be used for abortions or abortion coverage. So, Dean said, "this is more of a fig leaf."
Rep. Lois Capps, a California Democrat who had authored the Capps amendment -- an attempt to restate the Hyde amendment restrictions in the health reform bill that was discarded after anti-choice Dems said it didn't go far enough -- was reported to be satisfied with the executive order agreement. The Hill reported that Capps was pleased to be "getting to the end" of the fighting over abortion in the drive to enact health reform. "I'm thankful that we are to the point that we can now concentrate on healthcare reform and we're ready to take a vote."
Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America expressed disappointment, stating "“We regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. What the president’s executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D–MI) had insisted upon. So while we regret that this proposed Executive Order has given the imprimatur of the president to Senator Nelson’s language, we are grateful that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban.“
The National Organization for Women was more critical, opening its statement by expressing anger at the President's action: "The National Organization for Women is incensed that President Barack Obama agreed today to issue an executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion. Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass." You can read NOW's full statement here.
NARAL Pro-choice America was also critical. “On a day when Americans are expected to see passage of legislation that will make health care more affordable for more than 30 million citizens, it is deeply disappointing that Bart Stupak and other anti-choice politicians would demand the restatement of the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory law that blocks low-income women from receiving full reproductive-health care," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said in a statement
Keenan said that the Hyde Amendment should be repealed, not reaffirmed. "Today’s action is a stark reminder of why we must repeal this unfair and insulting policy," Keenan said. "Achieving this goal means increasing the number of lawmakers in Congress who share our pro-choice values. Otherwise, we will continue to see women’s reproductive rights used as a bargaining chip.”
By contrast, top Republican leaders in the House disparaged and dismissed Stupak's agreement with the Presidentas having little or no effect. "The law of the land trumps any Executive Order, which can be reversed or altered at the stroke of a pen by this or any subsequent President without any congressional approval or notice," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "Moreover, while an Executive Order can direct members of the executive branch, it cannot direct the private sector."
And later on the floor of the House, Representative Sensenbrenner made the claim that the Executive Order will have no force and no effect – arguing (falsely) that the Senate bill weakens the Hyde Amendment, and that an Executive Order can’t override legislation that has been signed into law. Sensenbrenner's comments came immediately after, and disputed, a colloquy between Rep. Stupak and Rep. Henry Waxman in which they agreed that President Obama's Executive Order states that health reform legislation does not weaken, or expand, the Hyde Amendment. According to Rep. Henry Waxman, who is solidly pro-choice, the Executive Order is "Hyde, nothing more and nothing less".