Democrats have had a strategy of running “conservative” and pro-life Democrats in red districts as a way of gaining seats the last few cycles. You must admit, it’s worked quite well for Democrats as they now have massive majorities in both the House and the Senate.

But the strategy does have its drawbacks for the Democrats.

Representatives like Heath Shuler from North Carolina and Tim Holden from Pennsylvania among others are pro-life Democrats that have won in red districts. While adding to the Democrat majority, those same conservative Democrats may make it more difficult for Obama to pass his more “progressive” legislation.

Particularly, the fate of President Obama’s health care reform might come down to one single issue: abortion.

With 235 Democrats in the House and 199 Republicans it was believed that essentially any legislation proffered by Obama would sail easily through without need of Republican support. But now, the only remaining hurdle to his plans might be pro-life Democrats.
US News and World Report says that nineteen Democrats warned Democrat leadership that they would oppose any bill that did not specifically exclude abortion funding.

Taking away 19 Democrats leaves 216 possible yes votes while, if the Republicans vote in a block they would bring the nay vote to 218. It’s slim but it’s certainly enough to give pause.

This puts Nancy Pelosi in a difficult situation because the abortion rights community will fight tooth and nail for the government insurance plan to include abortion coverage.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Honorable Pelosi:

As the debate on health care reform continues and legislation is produced, it is imperative that the issue of abortion not be overlooked. Plans to mandate coverage for abortions, either directly or indirectly is unacceptable.

We believe in a culture that supports and respects the right to life and is dedicated to the protection and preservation of families. Therefore, we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan. We believe that a government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan, should not be used to fund abortion.

Furthermore, we want to ensure that the Health Benefits Advisory Committee cannot recommend abortion services be included under covered benefits or as part of a benefits package. Without an explicit exclusion, abortion could be included in a government subsidized health care plan under general health care. The health care reform package produced by Congress will be landmark, and with legislation as important as this, abortion must be addressed clearly in the bill text.

Furthermore, funding restrictions save lives by reducing the number of abortions. The Guttmacher Policy Review, a leading pro-choice research organization noted “that about one third of women who would have had an abortion if support were available carried their pregnancies to term when the abortion fund was unavailable.”

Thank you for taking the time to consider our request. By ensuring that abortions are not funded through any health care reform package, we will take this controversial issue off the table so that Congress can focus on crafting a broadly-supported health care reform bill.

Respectfully yours,

Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK); Bart Stupak (D-MI); Colin Peterson (D-MN); Tim Holden (D-PA); Travis Childers (D-MS); Lincoln Davis (D-TN); Heath Shuler (D-NC) Solomon Ortiz (D-TX); Mike McIntyre (D-NC); Jerry Costello (D-IL); Gene Taylor (D-MS); James Oberstar (D-MN); Bobby Bright (D-AL); Steve Driehaus (D-OH); Marcy Kaptur (D-OH); Charlie Melancon (D-LA); John Murtha (D-PA); Paul Kanjorski (D-PA); and Kathleen Dahlkemper (D-PA).

I think the most important letter is that they’re not allowing wiggle room. They don’t want it merely left out. They want abortion to be excluded from the plan. Expect this fight to get ugly in a hurry with the very powerful pro-choice lobby on one side and the pro-life Democrats on the other.