The last stumbling block to health care reform has nothing to do with insurance reforms, subsidies, or the public option. It has to do with abortion. Namely, House leaders have to convince about a dozen of their Democratic members -- including Illinois Reps. Dan Lipinski and Jerry Costello -- that the current abortion language in the Senate bill is sufficiently restrictive. (Modifying the relevant language through the budget reconciliation process is all but impossible.) If they don't, they can kiss their package goodbye.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the ringleader of the anti-choice crowd, is now apparently trying to strike a deal with the White House and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). But it's worth reflecting on the ridiculousness of Lipinski and Costello's objections. The Senate bill in no way alters the status quo on public funding for abortions, which has been banned since 1976. It actually places unprecedented constraints on private insurers, forcing them to charge enrollees two premiums each month (one for abortion coverage and one for all other coverage) and then mandating the companies use only private contributions to pay for abortion services. But that's not enough for the pro-life Dems, who are threatening to kill the entire bill -- which would pass along $196 billion in annual subsidies for working-class Americans -- even after pro-choice lawmakers bent over backwards to pacify their requests. It's an absurd spectacle.