Can Stupak Save the Democrats?


Pregnancy is not a disease. Hence abortion, in the vast majority of cases, is not health care. Contemporary liberalism is ideologically committed to denying this truth. Fifty-one percent of Americans contacted in a recent poll said that private health insurance should not cover abortion. One hundred percent of Senate Democrats just voted for legislation that, in the process of remaking American health care, creates new subsidies for health policies that do cover it.

If this bill passes, abortion will become a cheaper option for millions of women. We know that the demand for it is sensitive to price. Abortion rates will increase. For almost two decades, many Democrats who favor legal abortion, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, have said that they want to see that rate drop. They have a funny way of showing it.

Obama has said for months that he wants a health-care bill that leaves the status quo on abortion law in place. This bill radically revises the status quo in a pro-abortion direction. Under current law, federal dollars very rarely pay for abortion: Federal employees’ health plans do not, for instance, cover it. The Senate bill overturns this principle. It also implicitly authorizes the secretary of health and human services to require that all private health plans cover elective abortions.

Pro-lifers long ago learned not to trust anything that Democratic leaders say about where they stand on abortion. This week has brought definitive proof that they cannot trust two men who had claimed to be pro-lifers themselves: Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Long after the Dick Durbins, Jesse Jacksons, and Dick Gephardts of the world had abandoned the unborn to get ahead in their party, Casey and Nelson ran for office telling anti-abortion voters that they could rely on them. One might have thought the promise would apply to this legislation, which may have a more direct effect on the abortion rate than anything else they have done. Perhaps Casey and Nelson believe that the legislation somehow keeps pro-lifers from having to subsidize abortion; it contains accounting devices to sustain that illusion. But there is no denying that the legislation makes abortion more accessible. It is hard to see how anyone seeking to stand in solidarity with the unborn would have supported it. That Nelson traded his vote for a modest increase in his state’s take from the federal government does not suggest that such solidarity was uppermost on his mind.

Washington is giving a lavish gift to the abortion lobby after years of declining public support for it. Senate Democrats have unanimously placed their party well to the left of public opinion. Sixty-four House Democrats, on the other hand, voted for Rep. Bart Stupak’s amendment to block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. It is up to them, and especially to the pro-lifers among them, to prove that their party is not a closed club made up of pro-abortion extremists and those they can buy off. Stupak has his work cut out for him.