How the Democrats Sold their Healthcare Bill by Exploiting the Abortion Issue

Last Updated Nov 11, 2009 9:03 PM EST

Pro-choice groups are freaking out because Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in the House "sold out" by tacking the last-minute Stupak amendment, which prevents federally-subsidized insurance plans from covering abortions, to the healthcare bill. It's easy for the punditocracy to now conclude that the abortion issue will become one big roadblock to reform as the bill heads to the Senate.
However, I'm not convinced that that's the correct interpretation. Isn't it possible that the Democratic leadership has shrewdly kept the abortion/healthcare issue unsettled all these months in order to muddle the debate in their favor at the last minute?

If anything, the bill passed the House because of Stupak's Amendment. It gave 64 Democrats, many of whom represent conservative districts (plus one Republican), the political cover to vote in favor of the entire plan once federal abortion funding was eliminated.

It's a classic negotiation technique. Add a few bells and whistles to your proposal so some beancounter can then whip out his red pen and cross out the extras.* The clients feels like they got a bargain and you got them to buy into everything you actually wanted all along.

"Rather than scrapping the Stupak-Pitts amendment, the president and congressional leaders should scrap Speaker Pelosi's health care bill entirely and start over," argued House Minority Leader John Boehner.
If only it were that simple, Rep. Boehner. Instead of debating the public option, which found its way into the final House bill, we have another distracting debate over abortion. This time, it looks like it's the Democrats who are exploiting the culture wars in order to push through their economic agenda.

*If you want to know exactly how the Stupak amendment modified the original bill's stance on abortion, check on a nuanced review in the Los Angeles Times.

  • Stefan Deeran

    Stefan Deeran helps environmental nonprofits and green businesses develop and execute their new media campaigns. He also publishes The Exception magazine, a nonpartisan news platform serving his home state of Maine. You can follow him on Twitter @RStefanDeeran or via Facebook.