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The Facts About Abortion & Health Care

Weve been keeping you posted on the fight for life that is being waged within the national health care legislation.  Unfortunately, there have been some Members of Congress who have tried to play both sides of the issue.  I want to simply lay out the facts about what happened late last Thursday, July 30, 2009 in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, so that there is no confusion about what occurred.

As you know, the Committee spent long days and late nights over the past two weeks considering sweeping health care legislation that, among other problems, would dramatically expand the number of abortions, as well as the number of taxpayer-subsidized abortions.  The ACLJ has been supporting a number of amendments that would help solve this significant problem. 

One of the most important amendments in this effort was offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI).  This amendment would have ensured that no insurance plan (public or private) could be mandated to cover abortion, and that no taxpayer-funded plan could cover abortion.  In a bipartisan vote at approximately 9:34 p.m., this important amendment initially passed 31-27 (the Committee Clerks tally can be viewed here).  This tally included a last minute switch from no to yes by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA).  This switch was made in order for Chairman Waxman to have the right to request a re-vote later in the evening.  Subsequent events would suggest that the intervening time was used to lobby Members of the Committee to change their vote.

At approximately 11:20 p.m., Chairman Waxman called for another series of votes.  The first vote was a motion to reconsider the previous vote on the Pitts/Stupak Amendment.  With help from the 13-seat advantage held by Democrats, this motion was approved 35-24, with only one Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak, bold enough to dissent (the Committee Clerks tally can be viewed here).

The approval of Mr. Waxmans motion enabled the reconsideration of the Pitts/Stupak Amendment.  This time, the Amendment failed 29-30 (the Committee Clerks tally can be viewed here).  As you can see from the Committee Clerks documents, there were three changes that allowed this change in outcome to happen:

  1. Chairman Waxman changed his vote from yes to no.  This was no surprise, as the only reason he voted yes in the first place was to be allowed to request a re-vote later in the evening.
  2. Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) did not vote the first time around, but showed up to vote no for the second vote.  His reason for missing the first vote is unclear.
  3. Rep. Bart Gordon switched his vote from yes to no, a move that switched the vote from one of approval to one of rejection.

Rep. Gordon previously had a mixed record on life issues.  It appears that he has tried to have it both ways.  His defense now is that he misunderstood the vote the first time, but has always been pro-choice.  Judging by the tragic outcome that his late-night vote switch last week brought about, I would have to agree that his pro-abortion colors have been plainly revealed.  I am disappointed that it took the defeat of such an important pro-life amendment to bring this to light.  It is my hope that this occasion will cause Rep. Gordon to reassess his position on this most fundamental and critical issue.

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