Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 17, 2009

NELSON SIGNALS FLEXIBILITY ON ABORTION RESTRICTIONS.... Almost immediately after the House approved health care reform with the Stupak amendment on abortion, attention turned to the Senate. Given that such expansive restrictions would not be part of the bill that's sent to the floor, and the fact that there wouldn't be 60 votes to add it to the legislation, the Stupak language wasn't going anywhere.

The problem, though, was Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the most conservative Democrat in the chamber. Nelson, who opposes abortion rights, was apparently "pleased" with the Stupak amendment, and was reportedly "highly unlikely" to vote for reform unless it includes language to "clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion."

Nelson's opposition would become a difficult hurdle to clear. Democrats couldn't add the Stupak amendment without losing pro-choice votes, but if Democrats didn't add the Stupak language, Nelson could help kill the entire effort.

Fortunately, late yesterday, Nelson seemed to come around.

[Nelson] now says he would be satisfied with the less restrictive language approved by the Senate Finance Committee.

Nelson's position is apt to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is trying to cobble together a health care bill -- which is full of policy mine fields such as abortion -- without losing the support of any Democrats, many of whom support abortion rights, while others, like Nelson, do not.

At issue is whether federal money that is used to subsidize health insurance premiums can be separated from private funds to pay for abortions. In the Senate language, that would be allowed. In the House language, it would not.

Nelson said his position has been consistent, but said he misunderstood a reporter's question on the issue last week.

Now, you'll notice that CNN's report didn't include any direct quotes -- only paraphrases. With that in mind, it's probably best to be optimistic, but not overly so until Nelson makes a firm commitment.

But if the CNN report is accurate, it's very good news. If the Senate Democrats' leading pro-life members -- including Harry Reid, Bob Casey, and Ben Nelson -- all agree that existing restrictions on abortion funding are adequate, and that the Stupak language is unnecessary, then it seems far more likely that the abortion fight will not derail the reform effort in the Senate.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (5)

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I believe that God made us in His image, and therefore the removal of ANY piece or portion of my Sacred Anatomy is blasphemous.

No appendectomy, tonsilectomy, or mastectomy should be performed using my tax dollars.

If Stupak can have his ammendment, then I want mine, too. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 17, 2009 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

If the Senate Democrats' leading pro-life members

You have to admire -- well, no you don't, really -- the right wing's ability to define the terms of debate. Even liberal blogger Steve Benen uses the term "pro-life," an Orwellian phrase concocted to disguise the right wing's radical anti-choice agenda and cast subtle aspersions on proponents of women's rights.

There's no reason at all to assume Reid, Casey and Nelson, let alone the Republicans, are "pro-life." If they were, we'd have health insurance reform already.

Posted by: Gregory on November 17, 2009 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Wait wait wait wait wait wait...

god damn it, wait a minute.

you say ben nelson, for decades in the pocket of the private medical insurance companies (wasn't he insurance commissioner of the state of nebraska back in the dark ages? or just outta high school or somethin'?)

you say that this ben nelson is startin; tuh "come around" on women's health care? so's we can get excited that a health care reform bill is comin' outta the senate that him and casey and reid can get behind AND (this is the good part) it won't be as restrictive on women's health as stupak...

really? wowsies!

and youu learned all this in "paraphrase" from cnn? on the teevee (so we know it must be true!)

why, i am sure every woman in america will light a candle to ol' saint ben on their way to latin mass this morning -- yahoo!

Posted by: neill on November 17, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK
Even liberal blogger Steve Benen uses the term "pro-life," an Orwellian phrase concocted to disguise the right wing's radical anti-choice agenda and cast subtle aspersions on proponents of women's rights.

"Anti-choice" is no less an "Orwellian" phrase designed to disguise an agenda and cast (not at all subtle) aspersions on one side of the debate than "pro-life" is; arguably, its worse since its a loaded label for the speaker's opposition rather than one that describes how they see their own position. If we were interested in purely descriptive, non-loaded phrases, we would describe the sides of the debate, depending on context, as "pro-legal-abortion" and "anti-legal-abortion" or "Pro-subsidized-abortion" and "anti-subsidized-abortion".

But if we are to insist that everyone use our own side's self-chosen loaded label for our side, we can't fairly object to the use of the other side's self-chosen loaded label for their side.

Its certainly fair to point out, of course, that many "pro-life" advocates embrace policies that cause, allow, or even mandate killing in other circumstances -- from loose control of firearms to the death penalty to aggressive war -- just as its fair to point out that many "pro-choice" advocates support all kinds of restrictions on personal choices in other contexts, so that neither "pro-life" nor "pro-choice" are, for the broad movements involved, really accurate labels of general principles so much as efforts to spin the narrow position each side takes with regard to abortion.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 17, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

"'Antichoice' is no less an "Orwellian" phrase to disguise an agenda..." cmdicely @ 11:08 AM.

Well actually, no, it isn't. By limiting the term to "antichoice", those who employ it are stating the truth: these people ARE against choice.
Conversely, when someone refers to themself as "pro-life", they are not stating anything close to the truth. All they worry about is a fertilized egg that could easily be, as often is, disposed of by the body in a completely natural occurance.
These people don't care whether the mother-to-be and the child she carries has proper pre-natal care. They don't care whether they have proper post-natal care, either. To be honest, I don't think they care about anything except possibly the idea that child-birth HAS to be the result of any sexual congress. After that, when the vast majority of any "life" actually occurs? No big deal, that's just life!

Posted by: Doug on November 17, 2009 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK



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