KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Abortion Issue Could Derail Health Reform

Nineteen Democrats have written House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promising not to vote for a health bill that includes funding for abortion, igniting a debate that has the potential to derail a health care overhaul, NPR reports.

"I take a view that there's almost anything [that can be compromised] in public affairs except probably the issue of abortion," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the leading Republicans seeking a bipartisan health bill."

"On Monday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the only one of five congressional committees overseeing the health effort that is actually drafting its bill, debated a half dozen abortion-related amendments. It defeated most on identical 12-11 votes, including one that would have barred people who get government insurance subsidies from buying private insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said the principle is the same as the one that currently bans funding for abortion in the Medicaid program for the poor. 'You are taking federal tax dollars and using them to provide abortion services,' he said."

"The committee's debate was relatively brief, but the abortion issue hangs over the health overhaul effort like a dark, menacing cloud. Abortion foes, like Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee, say President Obama and congressional leaders plan to use the health care effort to dramatically increase the availability of abortion services." Others say most insurance plans cover abortion, contraception and women's reproductive health and that such coverage will ensure women have the same access to care as men (Rovner, 7/14).

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