The pro-life Democrat leading the charge in the House against passage of the Senate health insurance reform bill said Friday that a key committee chairman told him that Democrats want abortions to be paid by a federally-funded nationalized health insurance system.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who's been so far out in front of the debate about abortion coverage that he earned himself a primary challenger over it, said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told him he wants to change current law that bans federal funding for abortion.
In an interview with Marquette, Mich., radio station WKQS' Mark & Walk morning show, Stupak described what he said was a conversation with Waxman about the Senate's version of the health care overhaul. That bill contains weaker language than the House-passed legislation, which includes a provision crafted by Stupak to ensure insurance companies that participate in a national exchange don't use federal money for abortion services.
"I gave him the language. He came back a little while later and said, 'But we want to pay for abortions.' I said, 'Mr. Chairman, that's -- we disagree. We don't do it now, we're not going to start.'
"'But we think we should,'" Stupak said Waxman told him.
"I said, 'Well, I'm sorry but the House has spoken. We had that debate. We won 240-190. You forced the vote, a vote we won fair and square and we're not gonna, this is what it is. If you want to move health care keep current law,'" Stupak continued.
Waxman issued a statement late Friday that sought to clarify his position but didn't address Stupak's claim.
"My position has been clear and consistent," Waxman said. "I do not believe health reform should be used to change current law, which prohibits federal funds from paying for abortion."
House Democratic leaders are trying to convince as many as a dozen Democratic lawmakers who voted yes for the House bill but have said they will oppose the Senate bill if the abortion language isn't changed.
That number seemingly has dwindled to a handful in the past couple days as lawmakers face increasing pressure and promises by Democratic leaders that a fix will come after the legislation becomes law. That would be through a process called "reconciliation," which has no guarantee of passing once the Senate bill is signed by President Obama.
Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of three panels responsible for cobbling together the House version of a health care overhaul last year, did not immediately return a request for comment.
But Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a liberal Democrat who says he wants federal funding for abortion, told Fox News that the Senate bill changes nothing about the "Hyde amendment," which is decades-old law preventing taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or injury to the mother.
"We have the Hyde amendment that has been in place for a generation. I'm not crazy about it but it says there should be no federal funding for abortions. That's the law as we sit here and that'll be the law after health care passes," Weiner said.
However, under the Senate plan, anyone who buys insurance through the exchange will see $1 of his or her premium go toward reproductive health care, including abortion. Weiner said it is not the case that abortion service providers will get any of that premium money.
"The fact is each individual person will be told that if they want to get an abortion they are not going to be able to use any subsidy, any plan that's provided by the federal government to do that," Weiner said.
"Congressman Stupak wants to go far beyond that and say anyone that offers insurance that is going to be in this exchange to even offer the services, it can't even be in there, even though it gets zero federal dollars. That's going much too far," he said.