"Baby Killer:" Or, How The Abortion Health Care Compromise Pisses Off Everyone


Like all great compromises, the abortion language in the just-passed healthcare bill leaves everybody angry, and the pro- and anti-choice sides have responded by issuing critical statements and yelling ridiculous shit, respectively.

Of course, in the fine tradition of compromise, everyone is mad. Most famously, there’s the guy (as of this writing, still unidentified) who called Bart Stupak a “baby-killer” when he decided to accept the slightly-less-restrictive restrictions on abortion funding imposed by Obama’s executive order. Emily Bazelon of Slate has a helpful breakdown of the order itself, which requires that insurance companies separate federal funds from funds used to pay for abortions, but, unlike Stupak’s original amendment, doesn’t bar companies that take federal money from covering abortion at all. As Bazelon points out, this is basically identical to the already-in-place Hyde Amendment — she reminds us, “Health care reform was never about loosening the restrictions on federal funding for abortion and the Stupak amendment was always about tightening them.” Or to put it another way, health care reform is about killing babies.

We’re actually kind of surprised that the baby-killer-yeller hasn’t come forward, since, as Mediaite points out, “Like Joe ‘You lie!’ Wilson, the heckler should reap a fundraising windfall once he is identified.” Instead of claiming the bounty for the slaughter of respectful discourse in Congress (a target that was admittedly crawling toward the grave anyway), the Republicans are basically acting like a bunch of third-graders. John Campbell (R-CA), fingered in early reports, counters, “it was someone with a Southern accent.” Of the yeller’s real identity, he adds, “Some people know who it is but won’t say.”

Less shy is NOW, coming at the issue from the other side. President Terry O’Neill said in a statement that the group was “incensed” by the abortion deal, and that it was “designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women’s access to abortion.” Well, yeah. The statement also says, “President Obama campaigned as a pro-choice president, but his actions today suggest that his commitment to reproductive health care is shaky at best. […] The message we have received today is that it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women, and we couldn’t disagree more.” It seems a little unfair to blame Obama for what was essentially a few House Democrats’ decision to hold the country’s health hostage to the abortion debate, or for basically maintaining the status quo (although, to be fair to NOW, many are predicting that insurance companies will drop abortion coverage because separating funds is too complicated). Then again, Bazelon has a disturbing interpretation of NOW’s language:

NOW’s anger makes sense as a reminder to the president not to take the pro-choice side for granted. It also gives more cover to the pro-life Democrats voting for the bill.

Emphasis mine. I’m not sure what’s most depressing: that legislation to help millions of Americans get desperately-needed medical care came down to whether a small percentage of them could use it for abortions, or that the entire debate has now devolved into performance art.

Who Is The American Hero Who Yelled “Baby Killer” During The Health Care Debate? [Gawker]
MSNBC: Bart Stupak Called ‘Baby Killer’ By GOP Rep On House Floor [Mediaite]
“Baby Killer” [Talking Points Memo]
Stupak Called “Baby Killer” For Backing Bill [CBS]
NOW Unhappy With Abortion Compromise: ‘Obama Breaks Faith With Women’ [Talking Points Memo]
Obama’s Executive Order On Abortion [Slate]

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