Abortion-rights advocates are calling in the cavalry to help fight off an anti-abortion provision House Democratic leaders swallowed in order to win passage of their health care reform bill.
UPDATE 11/15/09: White House assures abortionists Obama is on their side
UPDATE 11/14/09: FAQ on Abortion Amendment, from the Washington Post
-- From "Abortion activists call for backup" by Jonathan Allen, Politico 11/11/09
Laurie Rubiner, vice president of policy for the Planned Parenthood Federation, said the tight restriction on public funding for abortions “has completely galvanized the reproductive health community and the women’s community.”
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood summoned 80 progressive groups to plot strategy for keeping the anti-abortion amendment — named for sponsors Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) — out of a final health care bill.
If that doesn’t work, Plan B is to rely on progressives in the House to vote against a bill containing the language. Forty-one House Democrats threatened to do just that in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to a report by Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent.
But the first battlefield is in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has yet to unveil his chamber’s version of the health care bill. It’s still not entirely clear whether Reid, who has a mixed record on abortion and a tough reelection bid next year, will include the Stupak/Pitts provision or if abortion foes will have to try to amend it in. Either way, there is likely to be a vote on the issue on the Senate floor, forcing socially conservative Democrats to pick sides.
They are already starting to get pressure from a coalition of abortion-rights advocates and their allies in the progressive movement.
The Planned Parenthood meeting included representatives of influential liberal organizations like the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress, according to a list provided to POLITICO.
NARAL Pro-Choice America plans to “patch through” calls from activists in 17 states to their senators’ offices next week to lobby against the Stupak/Pitts anti-abortion amendment in the Senate version of a health care overhaul. The group’s online petition to Reid collected 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, and an e-mail campaign from the group’s grass roots to lawmakers is due to start soon, according to an official.
NOW chapter leaders are making appointments with individual senators. In the meantime, 53 activists showed up to picket Senate offices in the Dirksen Building earlier this week, according to NOW President Terry O’Neill.
With so much on the line, the abortion-rights activists recognize that they have to mobilize quickly and forcefully to counteract Pelosi’s decision to give the anti-abortion lawmakers what they wanted in exchange for their accession to passing the bill.
Leaders of abortion-rights groups met with high-ranking White House officials to discuss the health care bill on Wednesday.
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