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Leading Senators Concerned About Stupak Amendment

On the heels of a last-minute anti-abortion provision inserted into the U.S. House of Representatives health reform bill, several U.S. Senators have expressed concern about the Stupak amendment.

Planned Parenthood strongly opposes the Stupak amendment. It is an unacceptable addition to the health care reform bill that, if enacted, would result in women losing health benefits they have today.

Simply put, the Stupak amendment would restrict millions of women’s access to abortion coverage in the newly created health care exchange, undermining the ability of millions of women to purchase private health insurance that covers abortion, even if women pay for all or most of the premiums with their own money.  This amendment reaches much further than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977. Also, the Stupak amendment would ban abortion in the new public option, which would compete with private health plans in the exchange.  Enrollees in the public plan would also pay premiums with their own money, yet the public plan would be forbidden from offering abortion care as part of its benefits package.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid:
“We’re going to continue to work with pro-choice folks, pro-life folks in the Senate and come up with something that’s fair and reasonable.”  New York Times, 11/10/09

“At a Capitol Hill event this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid implied that the Stupak amendment exceeds the strictures of the years-old Hyde amendment which prohibits federal funds from financing abortions. ‘I expect that the bill that will be brought to the floor will federal contribution to abortion, and that [the] rights of providers, health care facilities like Catholic hospitals, are protected,’ Reid said. ‘The one thing that we're certain to do is to maintain what we have had in the past. I had the good fortune, as did Senator Durbin to serve with Henry Hyde, the Hyde amendment has been a pretty good way to go through this last couple of decades.'” Talking Points Memo, 11/10/09

Sen. Max Baucus:
“I doubt [Stupak amendment] could pass.” Huffington Post, 11/10/09

Sen. Chris Dodd:
“Other senators said they are happy with their chamber’s current proposals. ‘We have pretty good provisions in our bill.'” Bloomberg 11/10/09

Sen. Tom Harkin:
“I just fear that the House-passed language goes far beyond [previous restrictions] and will effectively prevent women from receiving abortion coverage under the new health exchanges even if they are using their own money to buy insurance. I think that is unfortunate and goes too far. So, we will be addressing this issue before [the Senate bill] goes to the floor. My hope is that we can strike the appropriate balance...I think keeping the status quo is the best thing we can do. I think it has worked well over the past 20-some years, and I see no reason to change it at this point.” RH Reality Check, 11/10/09

“I fear that the House-passed language will effectively prevent women from receiving abortion coverage under the new health exchanges, even if they are using their own money to buy insurance.” New York Times, 11/10/09

Sen. Barbara Boxer:
“This amendment is unfair and discriminatory toward women. It singles them out as a group and would deny women access to a legal medical procedure by dictating what a woman can do with her own private funds. We’ve had a compromise in place for decades that has been fair. Anything that disrupts that compromise is a huge step back for women.”  New York Times, 11/10/09

“If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it. And I believe in our Senate we can hold it….This is very discriminatory towards women...It is a much more pro-choice Senate than it has been in a long time. And it is much more pro-choice than the House.”  Huffington Post, 11/10/09

Sen. Ben Cardin: 
“The right policy is to avoid coming down on one side or the other on the abortion issue and to handle health care reform as a separate issue…I think that the Stupak amendment does not do that. The Stupak amendment tries to advance a particular view and I think it's regrettable and I would certainly prefer a bill that does not include the Stupak amendment.” Talking Points Memo, 11/10/09

Sen. Susan Collins:
“Maine Senator Susan Collins, an abortion-rights supporter and one of the few Republicans who might back health legislation, said she believes the plan that came out of the Senate Finance Committee ‘did a good job putting up a firewall that would prevent federal funds from going to abortions.’” Bloomberg, 11/10/09

Sen. Kent Conrad:
“I don’t know that anyone has quite found the right formula yet.” Politico, 11/9/09

Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
“To take away the rights women have had for decades -- I find that very hard to believe we'd vote for that," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)” MedPage Today, 11/10/09

Sen. Al Franken:
“(...) has pronounced himself ‘deeply concerned’ about the new abortion language.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/11/09

“This doesn't even allow a woman to buy with their own money insurance coverage that provides that kind of care for her in the exchange. And I just think that's not right.” WCCO-CBS 11/9/09

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:
“This is government invading the personal lives of many Americans, establishing for the first time restrictions on individuals who pay for their own private health insurance...Proposing that women …  purchase a separate abortion rider is not only discriminatory, but ridiculous...This anti-choice measure poses greater restriction on low-income women. Denying low-income women reproductive coverage in this way is discriminatory and dangerous.”  New York Daily News, 11/10/09

Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
“(...) she would ‘prefer’ a Senate version of the legislation that maintains existing restrictions on federal funding for abortion.”  Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/11/09

Sen. Blanche Lincoln:
“I think it does overstep, in that although it does maintain current law it also takes another step where it prohibits private dollars from being spent on private insurance in the private marketplace that actually would cover women’s reproductive services...We went to great lengths in the Finance Committee bill to make sure that we were extremely respectful to current law, that we didn’t add to it or take away from it in any way.” Arkansas News Bureau, 11/11/09

Sen. Claire McCaskill: 
“In a statement, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, expressed opposition to restrictions like those adopted by the House. Ms. McCaskill said Congress should not ‘change current law, which is no public money for abortions.’ And she said the House bill ‘goes too far limiting private funds, too.’” New York Times, 11/10/09

Sen. Bernie Sanders:
“It is hard to imagine that with a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, we would take a major step backward in a struggle that women have engaged in for decades. So, it just seems to me inconceivable that that can remain in the bill.” The Hill, 11/10/09

Sen. Arlen Specter:
“Ben Nelson said he wasn’t going to support a bill if it isn’t clear that government money won’t be used to fund abortions. Well, we can make it clear that if someone wants to buy abortion coverage with her own money, she can do it.” Media Consortium: Weekly Pulse, 11/11/09

Sen. Debbie Stabenow:
“This amendment goes far beyond merely prohibited federal funds for abortions. I have great respect for Bart, but we just see things differently on this.” Detroit Free Press, 11/12/09


Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Tait Sye, 202-973-4882


May 14, 2014

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Leading Senators Concerned About Stupak Amendment