Stupak: Don't test me on abortion, Democrats

After the House adopted the Pelosi Plan for ObamaCare with the Stupak amendment barring any federal funds for abortion coverage, Democrats attempted to assuage pro-abortion advocates by committing to changing the language in conference committee.  Even the White House got in on the act, with David Axelrod promising that Bart Stupak’s language would be “adjusted” before any bill came to the Oval Office.  Today on Fox News, Stupak threatened to kill the bill entirely if Democrats “adjusted” his amendment — and took a shot at David Axelrod as well:

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) pledged this morning to defeat healthcare reform if his abortion amendment is taken out, saying 10 to  20 pro-life Democrats would vote against a bill with weaker language.

“They’re not going to take it out,” Stupak said on Fox and Friends, referring to Senate Democrats. “If they do, health care will not move forward.”

Stupak’s amendment prohibits any insurance plan on a potential healthcare exchange from accepting federal subsidies if it covers abortion. Pro-choice lawmakers say that language is too broad and would drastically reduce access to abortion. …

“[T]hat is why Mr. Axelrod is not a legislator, he doesn’t really know what he is talking about.”

Stupak says he has somewhere between 10-20 votes that would flip if they strip his amendment. That’s a far cry from his 40 votes when he insisted on getting an up-or-down vote in the first place. It wouldn’t keep the conference bill from getting passed in the House, but his activism on the issue may make it stickier for Democrats to do anything in the Senate to water it down. Ben Nelson has already demanded Stupak’s language in the Senate bill before he’ll allow it to proceed, which will infuriate other Senate Democrats like Barbara Boxer.

Bottom line: this has created a fault line for Democrats that they didn’t need in 2009, and they risk a bad split with Catholics over it, as Politico reports:

By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation.

Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010.

According to exit polls, President Barack Obama won the support of 53 percent of Catholic voters, a seven-point increase over the showing of the Democrats’ 2004 nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a Catholic. Among Latino Catholics, who are often more conservative than their white counterparts on social issues, Obama did even better, winning more than two-thirds of their support, a 14-point improvement over Kerry’s totals, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Those gains will be at risk if a polarizing abortion fight takes place in the Senate.

This further confirms that Republican support for Stupak’s amendment was not just the right thing to do on principle, but on strategy as well.