David Dayen flags this latest example of the Catholic Church working directly with legislators who want to make abortion completely unavailable to American women who cannot afford to purchase health insurance in the private market, which is of course the vast majority of American women:
Here’s an amazing little article from Politico.
The Roman Catholic bishops signaled Thursday that if agreement is reached with House leaders on anti-abortion language, the church would work to get the votes needed to protect the provisions in the Senate — and thereby advance the shared goal with Democrats of health care reform.
What are they talking about? Well, the bishops want the Stupak amendment, which would effectively end coverage of abortion services in all insurance markets over time.
Of course, the Senate bill already prohibits federal funds from paying for abortions, but that’s not enough for Stupak and the bishops:
No, the Catholic bishops want to show a measure of dominance over the US government, and they want their way on this. And they have convinced Stupak to reject the “third bill” strategy, which House leaders offered to him.
What they want to do is to put the changes to the abortion language in a reconciliation sidecar bill, the second bill. This ensures that it will get passed as part of the package, since the President and Senate leaders have already promised that the sidecar will become part of the agreement.
But wait, you say. Reconciliation is intended only for budget-related items. How could the Stupak amendment language on abortion survive the inevitable point of order on the Byrd rule? Well, the bishops want to break that rule, and get 60 votes from the Senate to waive the point of order.
The precedent of waiving the reconciliation point of order whenever the mood strikes would be potentially powerful for essentially ending the filibuster. But my suspicion is that, if it comes to this, waiving the rules to make allowances for the Catholic bishops to crusade against women would be seen as a one-time deal. “We HAD to do that,” you see, and it’s not applicable to anything, you know, progressive.
If this actually happens – and if Pelosi has no other options to find the votes, I’ve little doubt that she’d at least explore it – you’ve basically ended the separation between church and state in this country.
UPDATE: Matt Miller at the Washington Post‘s PostPartisan blog (h/t Ezra Klein) makes an important point about Stupak’s willingness to block the Senate health care reform bill because, in his view, it does not do enough to keep federal dollars from paying for abortion coverage. It’s not federal funding for abortion coverage that Stupak is fighting — it’s federal funding for abortion coverage for poor women. “Sorry, Bart Stupak,” he points out:
[The] feds already subsidize abortions massively, via the giant tax subsidy for employer-provided care. Today the feds devote at least $250 billion a year to subsidizing employer-based coverage, a subsidy that skews incentives horribly (but which big business and big labor wouldn’t let the politicians touch this year). A Guttmacher Institute study says that 87 percent of typical employer plans cover abortion, and a Kaiser study found that 46 percent of covered workers had abortion coverage.
As I’ve written before, the Stupak amendment is as much about class as it is about choice. Imagine if Stupak attempted to expand his campaign to the coverage employed women receive. It would, after all, be the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage. But it wouldn’t have a chance. That group is too large and too affluent and too politically powerful for Congress to dare to touch its access to reproductive services. But the poorer women who will be using subsidies on the exchange are a much easier target.