Democratic Abortion Foes May Sink Healthcare Bill

Tuesday, 03 Nov 2009 12:21 PM

By Dan Weil

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House Democrats opposed to abortion may doom the healthcare reform bill that House leaders hope to bring to the floor soon.

The leaders are negotiating with a group of Democrats who are worried that the bill would allow public funding of abortion.

"I will continue whipping my colleagues to oppose bringing the bill to the floor for a vote until a clean vote against public funding for abortion is allowed," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said in a statement Monday.

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Last week he said that 40 Democrats may vote with him to oppose the legislation, which would be enough to torpedo the bill if all Republicans joined them.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Washington Post that "We are making progress," referring to the negotiations. But an agreement hasn’t been reached yet.

The disagreement centers on both federal subsidies that would be provided for people who can’t afford health insurance and the public option.

Already, federal funds generally can’t help pay for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life.

Democratic leaders backed a provision that would allow people to use subsidies under the bill to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, but only funds from individual or employer healthcare premiums could go toward paying for an abortion.

Insurance companies would have to separate government payments from private ones, and only the latter could be used for abortion.

But Stupak and his allies shrug off this provision as an accounting distinction. Given that government subsidies and private payments are combined to allow people to buy health insurance plans, federal funds are financing insurance plans that allow abortions, they argue.

Opponents of the Democratic reform plan may not have to worry about abortion, as opposition to the public option may be enough to sink it.

A new Congressional Budget Office study shows that the public option would increase costs, rather than lowering them as President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have claimed.

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