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Stupak Working With GOP Leadership To Undermine Abortion Language

Ben Smith has an explosive story:

An aide to Rep. Bart Stupak (D. Mich.) coordinated opposition to a Senate compromise on the place of abortion in health care legislation this morning with the Republican Senate leadership, the Conference Catholic Bishops, and other anti-abortion groups, according to a chain of frantic emails obtained this morning by POLITICO.

The emails show that Stupak — who has so far remained silent on language accepted by Senator Ben Nelson (D. Neb.) and faces intense pressure from the White House to accept it — is already working behind the scenes to oppose the compromise […]

“Guys – when will we see your letters of opposition to the managers amendment?? We need them ASAP!” wrote Erika Smith, a Stupak aide, at 9:23 this morning, less than an hour after the amendment had become available.

The email’s recipients included key staffers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life, the Family Research Council, as well as Autumn Fredericks Christensen, aide to a top pro-life Republican Joe Pitts, and Lanier Swann, a McConnell aide.

A minute after Smith sent out her plea, Lanier reiterated it to the list.

“Nelson is telling people in the building he will vote yes. If there was any time to weigh in against this deal — THIS IS IT,” Swann wrote at 9:24 a.m.

This is amazing on so many levels. First you have a Democratic House member – a chair of a subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee – coordinating with Republican Senate leadership. Second, you have open coordination between members of Congress and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which obviously has been the case throughout this debate, but it’s reiterated here.

Stupak has not come out with a public statement on the abortion compromise, but now he doesn’t have to. He obviously still wants to destroy women’s rights.

As for the compromise itself, it’s clear that this will start a major fight in the states, but of course, states have the right currently to manage abortion services coverage, whether with public or private insurance. I actually don’t see how this changes the law all that much.

What is dangerous is that it may give impetus to a Supreme Court challenge down the road.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) asserted that the compromise on abortion contained within the bill, which would seek to segregate federal funds from subsidizing health plans covering abortion, is unconstitutional.

“What this provision does that Sen. Nelson negotiated sets up a Supreme Court challenge. Roe v. Wade’s pretty clear on federal funding for abortion,” Chambliss said at a Capitol Hill press conference early this afternoon.

UPDATE: Rep. Lois Capps sends over kind of a mixed response. I’m seeking comment from her on this story as well. (UPDATE to the UPDATE: Capps is giving no comment on the Stupak story.)

“I am pleased the Senate appears to be moving forward on health reform, however, I am disappointed that women’s access to full reproductive health care is again paying the price. The provisions regarding abortion services in the underlying Senate bill, based on my earlier proposal, ensured that federal funds would not be used to pay for this legal medical procedure yet still provide women in need with access to this procedure. This latest compromise is far from perfect but it will allow most middle and low income patients to purchase comprehensive health insurance plans, something the House bill language would prevent. As we move forward with this historic legislation, we must ensure all patients can purchase health care plans that best meet their needs. I want to thank the Senators, especially Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who worked to maintain a common sense compromise approach to this challenging issue.”

UPDATE II: The National Organization for Woman has come out against the Senate health care bill. Wow.

“The so-called health care reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Manager’s Amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us,” NOW President Terry O’Neill said in a statement.

“We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women’s rights to reject the Manager’s Amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation,” O’Neill added.

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David Dayen

David Dayen