Rep. DeGette on Abortion & Health Care

Rep. DeGette on Abortion & Health Care

By Rachel Maddow Show - November 9, 2009

RACHEL MADDOW: Joining us now Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. She is circulating that letter which now has about 40 signatures of House Democrats who say they will oppose the health care bill if it's used to restrict abortion rights.

Congresswoman DeGette, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO), ENERGY & COMMERCE CMTE.: It's good to be with you again, Rachel.

MADDOW: In terms of the substance of the Stupak Amendment, how big a setback is this for access to abortion services in this country?

DEGETTE: Well, you said a part of it, but there's even more-even more. In the public option, nobody in the public option would be able to get an insurance policy that offered abortion coverage. And we need to remember, the public option is not funded with public money. It's funded with private insurance premiums.

So, let's say you have a small business owner who goes in to the public option because they can't get insurance anyplace else, and they want to buy a policy with their own private money, no federal money, that they would be banned from doing that. And as you said, the people in the exchange who get some kind of premium assistance could not use their own private portion of their health care premium to buy abortion coverage.

So, we think that in the public option, definitely, and almost for certain, in the exchange, no insurance companies would offer abortion coverage. This is-you know, Congressman Stupak and others said, "Well, we're simply codifying the Hyde Amendment." But the Hyde Amendment says no federal funding for abortion. We reached that compromise this summer in the committee, and that was in the base bill.

So, we already agreed to what the president says, "Let's keep the

status quo." This would be the most far-ranging abortion restriction in my

certainly, in my political career.

MADDOW: Congressman Stupak and others who support him are suggesting that women who would like their insurance coverage to include abortion services should buy abortion insurance specifically.

DEGETTE: I was-you know, Rachel, I was so appalled by that. I thought that was the most outrageous thing they said, because what it shows is a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly happens when a woman needs to have an abortion, because nobody ever gets pregnant thinking they're going to have to terminate the pregnancy. Either it was an unanticipated and unwanted pregnancy, or it was a wanted pregnancy that went terribly wrong.

So, to say to somebody you have to pay extra money in anticipation of this horrible event I think is just appalling.

MADDOW: I know that you're currently collecting signatures of house Democrats who will oppose a final version of health reform if it restricts abortion rights. What kind of support are you getting now?

DEGETTE: Well, let me put it this way. That letter-the letter that we're sending, it says that we will not vote for a conference report that extends abortion restrictions beyond current law. We think that's fair. That's the compromise we reached this summer.

I got those 41 signatures in one hour. I put the letter out after we lost the amendment. I had collected those signatures before the final vote on the bill.

So, we're still continuing to get more signatures this week. And what we want to say to everybody is, look, we're willing to work, we're willing to work on language. But we're not going to accept language that vastly restricts a woman's legal right to choose.

MADDOW: The president today voicing some support for your position in saying that the goal is to not change the status quo in terms of.


MADDOW: . abortion laws and funding for abortions. Have you had any sort of response from the White House? Are you at all encouraged by those words from the president tonight?

DEGETTE: I just found out about the president's statement about an hour ago. And I'm enormously encouraged, because the president is really saying what the rest of us think. This is a health care bill. This bill is designed to expand health care to 36 million Americans. And all of us have worked so hard to pass this bill for months and months.

To have it-to have it torpedoed by this extraneous but very dangerous amendment is wrong. And I'm hoping that the president will sit down with us in the next few weeks and really start to hammer out some language that we can all accept. If people don't think that the language in the base bill was acceptable, we're willing to talk about them, about language that pretty much keeps the status quo the way that it is.

And so, I was encouraged. We also-the pro-choice caucus sent a letter to the president today with over 80 signatures asking him to meet with us next week when we return, to talk about how we can make this happen.

MADDOW: Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado, always a very person, especially busy today given these latest legislative developments-thanks for taking time.

DEGETTE: That's right, and with virtually no sleep.


DEGETTE: Thank you very much, Rachel.

MADDOW: You're still totally cogent. Congratulations on that.

Thanks for joining us.

DEGETTE: Well, good.


DEGETTE: Thanks.


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