A key pro-choice House Democrat, working on health care in Congress, hinted on Monday that said she might be willing to support the Senate's abortion language.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) who has been tasked by leadership with helping hammer out a compromise on abortion between the two chambers, said she was not thrilled with either the House or Senate legislation's provisions. But in an interview with the Huffington Post, the Connecticut Democrat did say she would support the Senate's version of abortion-related language provided that she could confirm her belief that it did not go beyond current law.
"There are some questions I still have," DeLauro said. "And that's why I want to see this side-by-side with the language. It's not Stupak-Pitts [the House's language]. So, it's already [an improvement]. And it would appear to be current law. I would have to look at the questions that surround it, et cetera. But if it is current law then it would be something that was my goal at the outset: let's maintain current law and then let's pass health care."
DeLauro is one of the strongest champions for women's reproductive rights in the House; her blessing over the Senate abortion language represents a potentially major concession.
Under the Senate bill, states would be allowed to prohibit insurers operating in the soon-to-be-created health insurance exchanges from offering plans that cover abortion. Those people and businesses participating in the exchanges would have to purchase a separate plan to cover abortion. Meanwhile, those who receive federal subsidies to purchase insurance would be required to use their own money if they wished to purchase abortion coverage. The House bill goes even further, prohibiting insurers operating in the exchange from providing abortion coverage unless it's in the form of a supplemental plan that consumers can only purchase with private funds.
Both variations have been roundly criticized by women's rights groups as infringement on abortion rights. The National Organization of Women, for one, dubbed the Senate's bill "cruelly over-compromised legislation." DeLauro, likewise, acknowledged a certain misery in being forced to favorably champion existing law. "Who on the pro-choice side is excited about saying the Hyde language ought to prevail?" she asked. (The 1976 Hyde amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.)
But legislation, especially health care reform, is defined by finding middle ground, she said. And at some point the impetus is simply about getting a bill passed. "I think the greater good will prevail," said DeLauro. "I also think that people will fight hard for what they believe in. This is not going to be a walk in the park. Hell, this is tough stuff and very complex."
In the Senate, DeLauro noted, it wasn't simply the pro-choice crowd that had conceded ground. The pro-life community wasn't pleased either.
"It's maybe a compromise where no one is that happy," she said. "It would appear that you've got the Catholic Bishops who aren't happy. But [Sen. Ben] Nelson (D-Neb.) found his way there as did Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) [both pro-life Democrats]. And the pro-choice side said, 'We don't like this as much as we would like to not deal with this language.' But, you know, we're not going to defeat health care."
So, the Huffington Post asked, if you could confirm that the Senate's abortion language upholds current law, you will be fine supporting it?
"That's right. That's right," Del And I would just say that with regard to the Catholic Bishops, they now have an opportunity to not hold health care hostage in the way that they did and tried to do in the Senate," DeLauro, a Catholic, said. "No one, no group, no individual should do that. 45,000 people die every year and have no health insurance. We've got to act."