I am writing this diary with knowledge that my opinion is unpopular. The purpose of the diary is to express my support for the amendment by educating the community on the minimal impact of the amendment, the potential political benefits, and the murky nature of the abortion issue anyway.
UPDATE: A lot of people in the comments are parroting the anti-Stupak argument that women who need abortions will be denied them. Please read the diary, or at least the amendment, before you comment. Stupak allows federal funding for abortions where a physician "certifies" that there is a "danger" of death. This includes "life-endangering physical conditions" caused by the pregnancy (think about diabetes, paralysis, and other diseases that shorten life spans).
UPDATE 2: I'd like to note that I take some liberties and assumptions based on the text of the amendments that may not be supported by judges and lawyers if the amendment becomes operational. There is always some ambiguity in the law, so predicting the path the law will take based only on the language of the statute is always speculative to some extent. In my opinion, the best criticisms of the amendment in the comment are that the amendment does not cover enough health issues. Please note that the if a physician "certifies" that a pregnancy, or a condition arising from pregnancy, poses a "danger" to the life of the mother, the abortion is eligible for federal funds. However, this leaves open the possibility that a lot, but not all, "health" problems from pregnancy will be covered. Blindness is a good example of such a trait. I still don't think this is enough to tip my support of the amendment into opposition. For one, most private plans already limit access to abortion similarly to this bill. Also, I wager that in practice it will be easy to get a physician certification for an abortion when a health issue arises, even if the danger of death is attenuated. Furthermore, consider that abortions aren't that expensive and so many people are over or under insured that the health care bill will still expand their access in most cases.
A. The amendment minimally interferes with abortion, and permits expansion of abortion access by federally funding abortion where there is an issue of life, health, rape and incest.
According to the New York Times, the pertinent part of the amendment reads:
§ 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL -- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
(b) OPTION TO PURCHASE SEPARATE SUPPLEMENTAL COVERAGE OR PLAN -- Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any nonfederal entity (including an individual or a State or local government) from purchasing separate supplemental coverage for abortiions for which funding is prohbitied under this section, or a plan that includes such abortions, so long as --
(1) such coverage or plan is paid for entirely using only funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act; and
(2) Such coverage or plan is not purchased using --
(A) individual premium payments required for a Exchange-participating health benefits plan towards which an affordability credit is applied; or
(B) other nonfederal funds required to receive a federal payment, including a State's or locality's contribution of Medicaid matching funds.
First and foremost, everyone should understand what, precisely, the amendment does. In general, it prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions (whether through the public option, a government-subsidized private plan, or the use of tax credits). Exceptionally, it permits federal funding for insurance plans (including the public option) that allow abortions where "a [health problem] would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed [...] or the pregnancy is the result of [rape] or incest." Additionally, it permits a private parties and non-federal entities using federal funds for their insurance plan to buy additional coverage (with their own money) that covers additional abortion procedures.
A few points to make here, in support of my argument that this amendment minimally interferes with abortion access. One is that the amendment apparently restricts only "elective" abortions. The "as certified by a physician" standard for permitting an abortion is a pretty low standard. If the physician believes there is a "danger" of death, he or she can grant access to the abortion under this amendment. In practice, I imagine that health issues like major depression, paralysis, risk of diabetes, and so forth will be grounds for an abortion because those conditions carry a risk of death and people suffering from those conditions have shorter life spans. This means that a de facto "health" exception (as opposed to strictly "death") will likely be interpreted from this language.
Note that the amendment doesn't impose criminal penalties for doctors who fail to abide by this standard. Where states try to outlaw abortion, this becomes a major issue (for example, South Dakota's recent attempt to outlaw abortion imposed 10 years of prison for doctors who gave an abortion for merely health reasons, since the only exception was the life of the mother). However, there are no criminal penalties attached here. Conceivably, insurance fraud is still an issue (if the doctor certifies the "danger" of death), but fraud usually requires an intent to defraud. Thus, as long as a doctor is certifying the "danger" of death in good faith, there is nothing to worry about.
Second of all, people who will receive federal funding are probably paying "out of pocket" for abortions now. This includes elective and health-related abortions. Most people who will get federal subsidies or access to the public option probably have limited or no coverage right now, and will pay "out of pocket" for elective abortions either way. However, they will have the benefit of rape, incest, life, and health abortions that can be paid for by the federal government.
Ultimately, the amendment is not terribly restrictive even if you are pro-choice. Since federal funds can be used for life/health/rape/incest abortions, the health care bill ultimately expands abortion access over the status quo.
B. The inclusion of the amendment is good for the Democrats.
The political impact of the amendment is worth noting. The Stupak amendment can be used as a shield by Democrats in conservative districts, such as my home in South Dakota, where pro-life sentiment is strong. Additionally, this can be used as a way to reach out to religious organizations who are pro-life but like the idea of helping out the poor with health care.
The only downside I see is that it could anger pro-choice supporters who make up an important part of the base. But they should understand that the amendment only restricts elective abortions but maintains access to health (and rape/incest) related abortions. It's fairly radical and left-wing to support federally funded elective abortions. The current status quo is that the government doesn't subsidize elective abortions, and this amendment only solidifies that status quo. Thus, opposition by the pro-choice that has a material affect on ongoing political efforts (such as less door knocking and fundraising) is unfounded.
C. The opponents and supporters of the amendment exercised their moral consciousness.
I'll make this point brief, but we should all keep in mind that opposition as well as support for this amendment reflects a moral decision. I see people on all sides of the abortion argument declaring that people on the other side are necessarily unreasonable and immoral.
Without getting into a long-winded discussion about the theoretic underpinnings of the "right to life", I would point out that in the end we are all engaging in mere line-drawing. Each line is arbitrary to an extent -- do we draw when the family decides to accept the baby (the old Norse left unwanted babies in the wilderness and did not have a duty to take care of the baby until they sprinkled it with water)? At birth, as the English recognized under the Common Law (but then why should we deny the right to life the day before birth)? When the fetus can feel pain (doesn't the mental ability to suffer occur gradually)? In the third trimester? Second trimester? First? Attachment to the uterus? Conception? Does it earn the right to life before conception?
My point is, no matter what position one takes, there is some amount of arbitrariness and some value. Reasonable, moral minds can differ on where to draw the line and we should respect members of Congress who drew the bright line wherever they did. Many people on both sides of the abortion issue are guilty of failing to understand and respect the other side.
I support the Stupak amendment, and you should too, because it only minimally interferes in abortion access (and arguably expands it by federally funding health/rape/incest abortions), it reinforces the status quo, it provides a defense from potential pro-life healthcare sympathizers, and is a morally uncertain issue to begin with.