Health Debate Breaks Uneasy Peace On Abortion Policy
Politico: "After months of dodging high-profile confrontations over abortion, Democrats - including President Barack Obama - find themselves faced with a stark set of alternatives: Support a bill that imposes limits on access to abortion or demand one that might, however indirectly, fund the procedure with taxpayer money. It's the kind of decision point the White House and Democratic leaders have consistently attempted to avoid. By playing down divisions over abortion and emphasizing shared goals - such as reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in the United States - members of the president's party have sought to blur the lines of one of the country's most furious and enduring debates" (Burns, 11/11).
Nevertheless, "U.S. senators found themselves grappling Tuesday with abortion rights issues after the House approved a last-minute amendment to its health care bill aimed at ensuring that new legislation would not allow federal money to be used to fund abortions," the Omaha World-Herald reports. "Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said he will look at 'anything that's offered that makes it clear that no federal dollars, whether subsidy for premiums, or for tax credits, can be used to fund abortions'" (Morton, 11/11).
"Senate Democratic women met Tuesday to plot a strategy for ensuring that Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Minn.) anti-abortion amendment doesn't make it into the Senate version of a health care reform bill, a task that at least one Senator thinks the chamber already has the votes to do," Roll Call reports (Bendery, 11/10).
The Associated Press looks back at one of the forces in the House bill language: "Catholic bishops have emerged as a formidable force in the health care overhaul fight, using their clout with millions of Catholics and working behind the scenes in Congress to get strong abortion restrictions into the House bill" (Davis, 11/11).
Kaiser Health News on how the amendement would change current abortion laws: "The House-passed health bill bars insurers from selling policies that cover abortion to anyone who gets a federal subsidy. But it does allow insurers to offer optional abortion coverage that consumers could purchase with their own money. Based on some states' experiences, it's unlikely insurers would sell such coverage" (Appleby, 11/10).
NPR's Julie Rovner explains that the amendment "is basically making permanent the so-called Hyde Amendment, which since 1977, has been renewed by Congress every year to ban federal funding of abortions except in limited cases: rape, incest, life of the woman. ... Backers of the amendment say insurance companies could still offer plans that provide abortion as a benefit to people who buy policies with their own money. But opponents say there are other provisions in the bill that would make that basically impossible" (Block and Rovner, 11/10).