Abortion amendment to health care reform bill passes then fails

I spent some time watching the House Energy and Commerce Committee consider a variety of proposed amendments to the House health care reform bill (HR 3200).

Several abortion related amendments were considered culminating in a dramatic reversal of an amendment offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). Pitts offered an amendment making it clear that no public funds were to be used for abortion as a consequence of the health care reform bill. Initially, this amendment passed the committee by a 31-27 vote. Oddly, pro-choice Democrat and chair of the committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA) voted in favor of the Pitts amendment. However, House rules allow the chair to reconsider an amendment if the chair originally voted in favor. Waxman then brought up the amendment for reconsideration and switched his vote, along with one other Democrat, plus one who did not vote before. Here’s how the AP told the story:

Abortion measure passes, then fails, in House

(AP) –

WASHINGTON — An anti-abortion amendment to a sweeping health overhaul bill was voted down in a House committee late Thursday — a dramatic reversal just hours after the measure initially was approved.

The amendment said health care legislation moving through Congress may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion, except in limited cases. It was approved in the Energy and Commerce Committee after conservative Democrats joined Republicans to support it.

But committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., invoked House rules that allowed him to bring up the amendment for a second vote, despite Republican objections.

This time, one conservative Democrat — Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee — changed his vote from “yes” to “no.” And a second conservative Democrat who hadn’t voted the first time — Rep. Zack Space of Ohio — voted “no.”

It was enough to take down the amendment on a 30-29 vote.

Prior to the first consideration, the House subcommittee consider the Capps amendment which supporters said would prohibit abortion with public funds. However, pro-life representatives expressed doubts that the amendment as worded would prevent the Secretary of Health & Human Services from allowing such abortions in the public health plan option. All pro-life groups opposed the Capps amendment. However, it passed 30-28.

The conscience clause amendment passed by a voice vote. The one allows pro-life health care providers to opt out of conducting abortions. If pro-life groups are correct about the ineffectiveness of the Capps amendment, and this bill is passed by House and Senate, the conscience clause will unfortunately be necessary.