Stupak's Abortion Fight Spills Onto the Campaign Trail

| Thu Mar. 11, 2010 4:25 PM EST

Rep. Bart Stupak's polarizing abortion fight has stalled the health care bill—and now it's started to spill over into the midterm elections. Stupak has attracted a primary challenger who launched her campaign because of his anti-abortion stance. Now even moderate Democratic candidates are  speaking out against Stupak's anti-abortion maneuvering, which has become a major roadblock to passing the bill. Rob Miller, who is running in what's likely to be a competitive contest against Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson in South Carolina's second district, said in a meeting this week with local Democrats that he would have opposed Stupak's amendment to restrict abortion access in the House version of the bill.

"It’s an excessive piece of legislation that I think would strip from some areas—some of the life-saving aspects of the previous legislation," Miller said on Tuesday. "I thought it was unnecessary, I think that’s the biggest thing for me. So I would have voted against it."

Miller is a fairly moderate, fiscally conservative Blue Dog running in a conservative district that broke for McCain. His comments highlight just how extreme Stupak’s demands are. Though Miller hasn't taken a vocal stance on abortion in the past—his campaign hasn't yet responded to questions regarding his views on the issue—Miller is certainly drawing a bright line between himself and Wilson, whose campaign is hauling out the Republican attack line. "It's up to folks to say whether they want government-funded abortions or not," Brian DeRoy, the communications director for Wilson's campaign, tells Mother Jones.

In just days after Wilson's outburst during the State of the Union address, in which he accused the president of lying about the health reform bill, Miller raised over $1 million from the liberal netroots. After the massive influx of support, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sensed the chance for an upset and designated the race as a "Red to Blue" target. And Milller's opposition to Stupak could now win him more support from liberal groups. "I was very encouraged," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "It's absolutely exciting that people are stepping up to challenge [Wilson], especially those who are willing to recognize that women’s reproductive health care is health care."

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It looks as though Stupak could soon make a compromise on abortion in the health-care bill. But given the prolonged political firefight, the issue could continue to rear its head on the campaign trail—not the least for Stupak himself, who’s drawn a primary challenger who’s campaigning on his anti-choice intransigence.