- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

The bravest member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, is calling President Obama’s bluff on the question of federal funding of abortion in the health care bill.

Like other members, Mr. Stupak was sitting in the House chamber on Sept. 9, when Mr. Obama delivered a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress urging passage of the bill.

It was during this speech that Mr. Obama said it was false to claim the bill would provide insurance to illegal immigrants and that Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, famously blurted out, “You lie.”

What is not famous - yet - is what Mr. Obama said just seconds after Mr. Wilson accused him of lying: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

Shortly after this speech, an incredulous Mr. Stupak got Mr. Obama on the phone. Mr. Stupak, you see, knows as much about the status of abortion funding in the health care bill as anyone. He has proposed an amendment that would prohibit any federal money from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion.

In July, Mr. Stupak’s amendment was narrowly defeated in the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House panel primarily responsible for drafting the bill. The committee instead approved an amendment by Rep. Lois G. Capps, California Democrat. This amendment actually mandates that at least one insurance plan in each state-based “exchange” - the only place people receiving federal health-insurance subsidies will be allowed to buy health insurance - must cover abortions.

On Aug. 21, after Mr. Obama gave a radio talk insisting it was “not true” the health care plan would allow federal funding of abortion, FactCheck.org concluded, “Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans.”

Nothing had changed by Sept. 9, when Mr. Obama reiterated his claim to the Joint Session of Congress.

In an interview last week, I read to Mr. Stupak the exact words Mr. Obama said that night about abortion funding. Mr. Stupak told me that when he got Mr. Obama on the phone, he had read those very words to Mr. Obama himself.

Mr. Obama responded to Mr. Stupak - a former police officer - that when he said these words he was not talking about the actual health care plan developed by the House, he was talking about his own plan - a plan that has never been written.

“I called him,” Mr. Stupak told me. “I called the president - had a discussion with the president. And I read exactly what you just said. And he said: What it says is ‘under my plan’ - meaning the president’s plan. And I said: With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan. So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what.”

Mr. Stupak said Mr. Obama did not try to tell him the House bill does not fund abortion.

I asked Mr. Stupak if, when Mr. Obama claimed “our plan” does not fund abortions, the president meant some plan that existed only “theoretically.”

“Correct,” said Mr. Stupak. “And when I pointed this out, he said: Go back and work with the people on your committee and get this matter worked out. Work with the speaker. Work with us, would you? And I said: Yes, I would. And we have tried.”

All Mr. Stupak wants is a vote on his amendment when the health care bill comes to the floor. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have none of it.

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