The health bill passed with 219 votes last night, but not until President Barack Obama issued an executive order that blocks federal funding of abortion — a move that unleashed a torrent of criticism from women’s groups who say that he broke his campaign promise and principles on the issue for passage. In the meantime, the package of “fixes” may be in jeopardy in the Senate — potentially leaving the original Senate bill in the same unpopular state.
Obama issued the executive order last night to secure the needed votes to put the legislation over the top. The order states: “maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges.”
NOW promised to kill the executive order and accused Obama of “breaking faith with women.” Here is part of the statement:
President Obama Breaks Faith with Women
The National Organization for Women is incensed that President Barack Obama agreed today to issue an executive order designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women’s access to abortion. Through this order, the president has announced he will lend the weight of his office and the entire executive branch to the anti-abortion measures included in the Senate bill, which the House is now prepared to pass.
President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. Contrary to language in the draft of the executive order and repeated assertions in the news, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law — it is an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. NOW has a longstanding objection to Hyde and, in fact, was looking forward to working with this president and Congress to bring an end to these restrictions. We see now that we have our work cut out for us far beyond what we ever anticipated. The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn’t disagree more.
In the meantime, the GOP is accusing the Democrats of avoiding meetings where it would have been made clear that the fixes would not be adopted as planned — or possible not adopted at all — in the Senate in order to give House members an excuse for voting for the Senate bill. That would lead to an interesting political dynamic. If the Senate rejects some of the fixes, House members would simply blame the Senate, but would still have an unpopular bill to deal with in the upcoming election.
The abortion issue is likely to haunt some of the members as well. While women’s groups are outraged at what they view as a sellout, abortion groups were not satisfied with the executive order. Leading anti-abortion member and negotiator Bart Stupak was called a “baby killer” when he spoke last night on the compromise and people like Phyllis Schlafy are denouncing the compromise, here.
This is going to be an interesting mid-term election.
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