Most New Yorkers hadn’t heard of Bart Stupak before he attached his devastating anti-abortion amendment to the House’s health-care-reform bill three weeks ago.
We know a lot more about him now, of course: that he lives in a Christian rooming house on C Street; that he’s a former state trooper. He has become a symbol of legislative zealotry, living proof that the fight over the right to choose will always attract a more impassioned opposition than defense.
(As Harrison Hickman, a former pollster for NARAL, put it to me: “If you believe that choosing the wrong side of the issue means spending eternal life in Hades, of course you’re going to be more focused on it.”)
Just a week after the vote, when I reached the Michigan Democrat as he was driving across his district, he seemed dumbfounded that anyone found his brinkmanship surprising. “I said to anyone who’d listen: ‘Do you want health care, or do you want to fight out abortion?’ ” says Stupak.
He points out that he’d nearly managed to bring down a rule about abortion funding earlier in the summer, this time in a bill about spending in the District of Columbia. “I said, ‘Look, that was a shot across your bow,’ ” he recalls. “ ‘I was being polite to you. That was a warning.’ And the leadership just blew us off.”
Until it realized it couldn’t, of course. And the results sent chills through the pro-choice world, dampening what was otherwise an impressive victory for Democrats on the issue of universal health care.
If Stupak’s amendment holds, then any health-insurance plan that’s either listed on the government-run exchange or accepts federal subsidies—which would likely be almost all of them—would not be allowed to cover abortions.
(The Senate bill is better thus far, but what the legislation will ultimately be, assuming it passes at all, is anyone’s guess.)
Four days after the vote, Kate Michelman, the former head of NARAL, and Frances Kissling, the former head of Catholics for Choice, warned of an ominous new landscape in a Times op-ed:
“The House Democrats reinforced the principle that a minority view on the morality of abortion can determine reproductive-health policy for American women.”
But is that actually right? Was Stupak’s truly the minority view?
According to a Gallup poll from July, 60 percent of Americans think abortion should be either illegal or “legal only in a few circumstances.”
Only seventeen states pay for the procedure for poor women beyond the standards of the 1977 Hyde Amendment—meaning if the woman’s life is in danger or she’s been the victim of rape or incest.
Just two months before the health-care bill’s passage in the House, a Rasmussen poll found that 48 percent of the public didn’t want abortion covered in any government-subsidized health plan, while just 13 percent did.
(Thirty-two percent believed in a “neutral” approach—though what on Earth that means is hard to say.)
Read more: Just How Pro-Choice Is America, Really? -- New York Magazine http://nymag.com/news/features/62379/#ixzz0ZjrjhfCo