More than 500 people from 30 states gathered at the Capitol today in opposition to an amendment to the health care overhaul that would restrict health insurance coverage for abortion. The so-called Stupak amendment, introduced by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), made it into the House bill last month.
The group of abortion rights supporters in Washington today were organized by a coalition made up of dozens of groups that advocate for issues like abortion rights, women's rights, and civil rights. The "Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak" held the event with some of its strongest backers in Congress, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Citizens in attendance also directly lobbied their own representatives.
Today's lobbying activities were part of a week of events the coalition is organizing to raise awareness of the Stupak amendment, including at more than 120 college campus events and online. The lobbying has largely focused on Democrats. Sixty-four Democrats joined 176 Republicans to pass the Stupak amendment.
Today's activities follow news that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), one of the few Democratic senators whose health care vote is still in play, plans to introduce an amendment to add Stupak-like language to the Senate bill.
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The fate of the amendment, however, still depends on the support it can maintain the House of Representatives, since Democratic leaders will have to merge elements of the House bill with whatever comes out of the Senate before the final bill reaches President Obama's desk. Some Democratic House members are now saying they have enough votes to block any bill that comes back to the House with the Stupak language intact.
Additionally, the Stop Stupak coalition claims that since the passage of the House bill, some representatives who voted for the amendment have expressed doubts it. The GOP presented nearly unanimous opposition to the overall health care bill, but there were 36 Democrats who voted for the Stupak amendment and also voted in favor of the overall reform package.
With those representatives in mind, the political action committee FDL Action, affiliated with the liberal blog network FireDogLake, is launching today its own campaign against the Stupak amendment. The PAC will be phone banking into the districts of Democratic lawmakers who voted for the amendment -- and ask voters to demand that their representatives do not hinge their final health care vote on the inclusion of the Stupak language.
"Bart Stupak has bragged he has enough votes to kill the final bill if his demands aren't met" Firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher said in a statement. "Our goal is to collapse Stupak's hand and short-circuit this attack on women's rights. We hope that by reaching out to educate likely voters in their districts to the far-reaching implications of the Stupak language, we can help these wayward Democrats understand that having the Hyde language in the bill is sufficient to their needs."