The effects of the abortion ‘compromise’

THE EFFECTS OF THE ABORTION ‘COMPROMISE’…. As of late yesterday, House Democratic leaders were still short of the 218 votes needed to pass health care reform. Odd as it may seem, after six months of debate, hearings, meetings, and negotiations, the biggest hurdle was the wording on a measure dealing with the fungibility of public funds as it relates to abortion services.

Pro-choice Democrats said the bill already restricted direct public funding of abortion. Democrats who oppose abortion rights said it wasn’t enough, and without a prohibition on indirect funding, they would kill the entire health care reform initiative.

Late last night, the House leadership agreed to let opponents of abortion rights bring an amendment to the floor.

Anti-abortion Democrats will be allowed to offer an amendment during the House health-care debate Saturday that would ban most abortion coverage from the public option and other insurance providers in the new so-called “exchange” the legislation would create, three Democratic sources told CNN.

The prohibition would exclude cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger, known as “Hyde” language. […]

Several anti-abortion Democrats will offer the amendment, including Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, who are scoring a major victory in convincing Democratic leaders to allow this vote.

It is also a big win for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which used its power, especially with conservative Democrats in swing congressional districts, to help force Democratic leaders to permit a vote that most of them oppose.

The House Democratic leadership didn’t want to go this route, but was out of options — they just couldn’t get to 218.

The idea, at this point, is to allow a vote on the amendment. Pro-choice Dems can register their opposition, but the amendment is expected to have the votes pass.

And that’s when this might get a little trickier. If the Stupak/Ellsworth amendment is approved, Democrats who’ve withheld their support over this issue will throw their support to the larger reform bill. The angle to keep an eye on, however, is what happens to the strong, pro-choice leaders in the caucus — will they switch sides and vote to kill the bill?

Most of the vote counts I’ve seen put the number of hard “no” votes in the Democratic caucus at 25. The majority can lose no more than 40. The vote is still expected for tonight, with top White House officials and cabinet sectaries working the phones and walking the halls of Congress, keeping the heat on wavering members.

Stay tuned.