Senate Makes an Abortion Compromise to Win Nelson; Everyone Is Unhappy (Except Nelson)

The predicted deluge of statements on the Nelson-Reid abortion compromise have begun to filter in, and there is a bizarre moment of widespread consensus from groups that both support and oppose abortion rights:

We hate this compromise.

On the left, the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood have both come out in opposition to the Senate bill, and NARAL will likely do so later this afternoon. They see the ability of states to opt their exchanges out of abortion coverage as a huge step back for a woman’s right to choose. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards says the compromise is unworkable, “essentially an abortion rider [that] creates an unworkable system whereby individuals are required to write two separate checks each month, one for abortion care and one for everything else.” Similar sentiments from NOW president Terry O’Neil, who describes the bill as “a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us.”

The reaction from those on the right is equally outraged. Except they’re frustrated with the fact that states will still have the ability to cover abortion on their exchanges, which the strong Stupak amendment would have prohibited. Speaking earlier today in the Senate, Republican Tom Coburn said the “negotiations threw unborn babies under the bus.” Doug Johnson, policy director of the National Right to Life Committee, says the bill is “light-years removed from the Stupak-Pitts amendment that was approved by the House [and] solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill.” Even Rep. Bart Stupak is now working to undo it.

The only voices giving the Nelson-Reid compromise a stamp of approval are Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington, generally supporters of abortion rights. In a joint statement issued this morning, they say: “We said we would stop Stupak—which we did ... compromise was necessary to get a health care bill for the American people, and this compromise achieves that."

What I’m most interested to watch here is the fissure between abortion-rights supporters and their advocates in the Senate. Boxer and Murray are usually some of Planned Parenthood’s most reliable advocates, so I’d imagine this compliance with the compromise (admittedly lukewarm) cannot sit well with the pro-choice organization. Richards ended her statement with her intention to “work with leaders to fix the abortion-coverage language in conference.” But if Murray and Boxer are on board with the compromise, it’s difficult to see whom they will be working with.

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