Chris Matthews allowed Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) to repeatedly falsely claim that his amendment to the House health care reform bill is consistent with “current law” with regard to abortion coverage and simply extends the Hyde Amendment's prohibition on government money from being used to pay for most abortions. In doing so, Matthews ignored several guests who had previously explained to him that the Stupak Amendment effectively bans policies that cover most abortions from inclusion in the exchanges even if people purchase the policies entirely with their own funds, including Cynthia Tucker, whose explanation that the amendment “goes much farther” than current law under the Hyde Amendment Matthews praised for its clarity.
Matthews lauds Tucker's explanation for how Stupak “goes much farther” than Hyde
From the November 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
TUCKER: Quite frankly, I think the majority of members of Congress in the House and in the Senate want to do just one thing, preserve the status quo, the Hyde amendment, which says, no taxpayer money may be used to fund abortion. And I think most of the 64 people who voted for the Stupak Amendment thought they were doing that. But it goes much farther than that. The Stupak Amendment says that private insurers may not sell policies that give full reproductive rights coverage in the exchange. So even if I can afford my own insurance, if I'm not getting a government subsidy at all, I cannot buy on that exchange.
MATTHEWS: Well said. That's the first time somebody's explained it clearly.
Yet, Matthews allowed Stupak to repeatedly claim his amendment reflects “current law” on abortion funding
On the November 17 edition of Hardball, Matthews allowed Stupak to repeatedly claim that his amendment is a continuation of the “current law” and wouldn't restrict “insurance policies or individuals from using their own money to get abortion service”:
MATTHEWS: This has been a hard fight for you. What is your endgame? Do you hope to keep your amendment in the final bill?
STUPAK: Yes, we'd like to keep current law in federal health care. I mean, if we expand federal health care, we think current law, which is the Hyde amendment, which says we do not pay for the benefit of abortion, nor do we pay for health care plans which provide abortion. So, we're just going to keep current language.
STUPAK: Well, I haven't really gone and counted, and we want to see what a conference report looks like. Everyone keeps telling us we're going to keep current language. That's what my amendment is. The Stupak amendment is nothing more than current language. And if they keep current language, I guess we don't have to worry about it.
MATTHEWS: But that's the problem. How do you find the current language? The current language says no federal money pays for an abortion. The president says no federal money can be used to subsidize abortion. And yet, we've never had subsidies before of insurance policies that already exist.
MATTHEWS: So you've got two people, two points of view now willing to say, 'My way or the highway." And is that going to kill health care?
STUPAK: No, I don't think it's going to kill health care. After all, it's the pro-life Democrats that really put the health care bill over the top. Forty-one of the members who voted of the 64 who voted for my amendment, Democrats, ended up then supporting the health care bill.
Look, everyone is jostling for position right now. We've been consistent. No federal funds for abortion, keep the current law, and let's do talk about health care, and let's not have an abortion debate. The sad part about this whole debate is, we never talk about the good things that's in the health care bill. We're all hung up on this abortion issue, which all I did was keep current law. We should be talking about health care.
Stupak Amendment exceeds restrictions under current law, alters status quo
NY Times: Amendment “reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage.” In a November 9 editorial, The New York Times wrote that the Stupak Amendment to the House bill would make it “largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage” and “would prevent millions of Americans from buying insurance that covers abortions -- even if they use their own money.” The Times noted that the amendment's supporters “reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage” because the amendment “would ban the use of federal subsidies to pay for 'any part' of a policy that includes abortion coverage.” As the Times noted, the Hyde Amendment “bans the use of federal dollars to pay for almost all abortions in a number of government programs.
Status quo currently allows people participating in federally funded plans to obtain abortions as long as funds are segregated. Under the Hyde Amendment, people participating in a government-administered health care insurance plan are allowed to use their own money to pay for abortion but federal funding of abortion is forbidden. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Hyde Amendment was originally passed to prohibit federal funding for abortions through the Medicaid program and has since been expanded to other areas. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the prohibition on federal funding for most abortions under Medicaid, according to a September 1 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 17 states provide coverage under Medicaid for “all or most medically necessary abortions,” not just abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. Therefore, in 17 states, Medicaid, a federally subsidized health care program, covers abortions in circumstances in which federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion.
Numerous Hardball guests explained to Matthews that Stupak abortion coverage restrictions exceed current law
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America: “Stupak ... basically eliminated the status quo.” From the November 11 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
KEENAN: Let me tell you that there was a compromise in the original bill that basically said there is no federal funding for abortion -- in the original bill. The Stupak amendment went much, much further than that. It basically eliminated the status quo. So there -- you know, you're counting votes late at night. Fact of the matter is, now we've got to remove that language. That's my bottom line. The Stupak language cannot be in --
New York magazine's John Heilemann: “Stupak Amendment went further than the Hyde Amendment did, went further than the status quo.” From the November 11 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
HEILEMANN: Look, I think the Stupak Amendment went further than the Hyde Amendment did, went further than the status quo. I cannot see the Stupak language ending up in the language bill.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO): “Stupak ... goes far, far beyond current law.” From the November 10 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
DeGETTE: Unfortunately, the Stupak amendment that was passed as part of the bill on Saturday goes far, far beyond current law. And what it says is, in the public option and in the insurance exchange, people cannot even use their private dollars to buy insurance coverage that will pay for full reproductive services. That would be the biggest expansion of anti-choice laws in my entire career.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN): Stupak “went beyond the Hyde amendment.” From the November 9 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
COOPER: They had to pull out all of the stops, and this was one of them. I think, as members calm down, as members look at this carefully -- one of the problems was the Rules Committee itself reported out language that said that the Stupak amendment codified the Hyde amendment. That was not accurate and it went beyond the Hyde amendment...
MATTHEWS: Explain how.
COOPER: Well, by affecting not only direct but indirect taxpayer subsidies. The Hyde amendment has never affected indirect taxpayer subsidies. For example, the second largest health program in America is a tax break for folks with employer-sponsored coverage. Anybody works for a private company gets some help from his fellow taxpayers to afford that coverage from the private employer. It's not obvious. It doesn't look like a government program, but it is and it's $250 billion a year. The Hyde amendment has never applied to that...
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards: Stupak exceeds principle that “the status quo was what should apply.” From the November 9 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
RICHARDS: [Abortion language in the House bill] was a carefully crafted compromise between pro-choice and pro- life members of Congress to say that the status quo was what should apply, that Hyde, which as Congressman Cooper has said, has applied since 1976, would mean no federal funding for abortion, but you shouldn't eliminate millions of women's access to purchase insurance coverage that covers full reproductive health care. Unfortunately, that's what happened in the Stupak amendment. It literally is a middle-class abortion ban now. It now impacts millions of women who would be able to purchase insurance.
Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page: “This is worse” than status quo, amendment “moved the ball now beyond the Hyde Amendment.” From the November 9 edition of Hardball [accessed from the Nexis database]:
MATTHEWS: The problem is we are extending -- we have the ban on abortion for poor women. The government doesn't pay it. This has crept back into the issue here.
PAGE: This is worse, Chris, because this is declaring that even a woman can't use her own money to pay for an insurance plan that also covers abortion.
Does that mean that a hospital that offers abortion services cannot get any federal money at all, like Medicaid. That's where that argument goes. They have moved the ball. They, the anti-abortion side, has moved the ball now beyond the Hyde Amendment to restricting the choices of women who use their own money. To me, that really is a reason why a lot of dissenters don't want to vote for it.