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So Kendrick Meek is Suddenly Pro-Choice?

Kendrick Meek is now saying that “when I become the nominee, the Democratic nominee, I will be the only pro-choice candidate on the ballot.”

It’s great to hear his enthusiasm for abortion rights, but I have to wonder where Meek’s commitment was last year when he joined with four pro-life Democrats to demand restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services in the health care bill?

Mike Stark caught up with Meek with his video camera last July. Mike wanted to know why anti-abortion forces were willing to go to the mat for their cause, but public option supporters (such as Meek) were not:

MIKE STARK: There are people on the Hill have said that if it comes through with any kind of women’s health care provision, meaning abortion — it’s code word for abortion — they are absolutely voting against it.

So they hold that principle very firmly. So I’m asking you to do is hold…

MEEK: The real issue is that the act that has been on the books since the 1980s as it relates to Medicaid is already illegal to mandate coverage, but we do have this advisory board that will make those decisions. And I think that as we look at this issue, we want to make sure that women health care is not jeopardized, but at the same time, I want to make sure that we follow the letter of the federal law as it stands now.

STARK: The point I was making was that if they can say that this is a principle that I won’t compromise on…

MEEK: Well, let me say…

STARK: …how come we won’t say that a public option is a principle that we won’t compromise on?

MEEK: …well, public option is where I am. I’m there 110%. I gotta run.

Shortly thereafter, Meek’s concern for “following the letter of the law as it stands” moved him to join with four “pro-life” Democrats and write a letter demanding that the health care bill must not allow government funds to pay for insurance that covered abortion services.  The other four — Dale Kildee, Tim Ryan, James Langevin and Artur Davis —  all voted in favor the Stupak amendment.

The letter said:

…we believe that a common ground solution is to include language in the final legislation that makes clear that no insurance company will be required to pay for an abortion except in extraordinary circumstances — nor will they be prohibited from paying for an abortion, so long as health insurance plans offered in the exchange that choose to provide abortion coverage pay for those services with funds that are separate and distinct from any federal subsidies.

This solution maintains the current status quo in the private market – where insurance companies can choose whether to include this coverage in their plans and individuals can choose which plan (and what sort of coverage) fits their individual needs and values while ensuring that no federal funds are used to pay for abortions.

Lastly, we believe that health reform legislation should not preempt constitutionally permissible state laws that establish pre-requisites that a patient must satisfy before obtaining an abortion, such as parental consent and waiting period laws.

Meek’s campaign is sending around his endorsements from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL vigorously opposed what Meek was trying to do with regard to the abortion service coverage in the health care bill. He doesn’t mention that, however.

As Dana Goldstein of the American Prospect said at the time, “by opposing ‘federal subsidies’ for abortion, these Democrats align themselves with Republican abortion opponents, whose goal is to prevent abortion coverage under any new public insurance options, just as the Hyde Amendment currently prevents Medicaid from funding abortion for poor women.”

Sarah Rosenbaum of George Washington University said that the “segregation of funds” proposal that Meek endorsed would “chill” the willingness of insurers to provide abortion coverage.  Rather than comply with complex audit standards and set up a system to collect additional fees, “the more logical response would be not to sell products that cover abortion services” she concludes.

Politifact decided to fact check Meek’s claim that he would be “the only pro-choice candidate on the ballot.”  They say, quite rightly, that Christ’s views on abortion are “complicated”:

He has maintained a flexible abortion stance during his political career. He called himself “pro-choice” in 1998, then recast himself as an anti-abortion candidate in his gubernatorial bid. In his latest political rebirth, Crist insisted he was still personally pro-life, but would not legislate according to his views.  In June 2010, he rejected a controversial abortion bill that would have required most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus unless they signed a form to opt out. The bill was described as the most significant anti-abortion measure in Florida history by proponents.

They go on to note that “Crist is personally pro-life, but accepts that abortion is legal. That’s not a rousing pro-choice endorsement.”  But that’s the position of NARAL chief Nancy Keenan, too, who is a Catholic and accepts the church’s teaching that abortion is a mortal sin.

Politifact concludes: “Given Meek’s solid pro-abortion stance and Crist’s rotating views, we rule Meek’s statement Mostly True.”

While I have no doubt that Meek would be better than Charlie Crist on a host of issues, I think support for abortion rights for both of them has historically been a function of political convenience.  So long as Meek thought he would be facing an anti-choice Republican alone in the general election, he ran to the right.  And does anyone really believe Crist would’ve rejected that ultrasound bill if he’d been the GOP nominee?  But once he did, Meek had to compete for the pro-choice voters he was ready to abandon last July, and now he’s running around touting his NARAL and Planned Parenthood credentials.

Well, so did Joe Lieberman.

I’d rule Meek’s claim FALSE:  When it comes to abortion rights, both Meek and Crist can be counted upon for fair weather support like the “trained bands“in Fielding’s Tom Jones:  “always readiest to go on Duty where there is the least Danger.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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