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As Health Insurance Debate Looms, Budget Director Refuses to Rule Out Federally Funded Abortions

President Obama talks about health care reform in the Rose Garden Wednesday, flanked by nurses and members of Congress. (AP Photo)

A government-funded, public health insurance plan may allow taxpayer money to go to pay for abortions, the White House budget chief said Sunday.

Office of Budget and Management Chief Peter Orszag told "FOX News Sunday" he is not ready to say whether abortion services would be part of a final package Congress is considering to provide taxpayer-funded health care to about a third of the nation's 50 million uninsured. Lawmakers are considering a package that could cost as much as $1.5 trillion over 10 years for health care.

"I think that that will wind up being part of the debate. I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate," Orszag told "FOX News Sunday." "I'm not prepared to rule it out."

Already, the Obama administration has demonstrated its support for federal funding of abortion. The president rescinded the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, the day after the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The policy had been in place to prevent U.S. funding being used for abortion services in clinics abroad.

The House last week voted to eliminate a ban on local funds being used for abortions in Washington, D.C., which gets a substantial portion of its budget from the federal government.

The health care reform bill is still playing out in debate in the House and Senate, with Obama pushing passage by August. GOP lawmakers say they are unwilling to rush a bill through Congress, but Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said abortion won't be the issue to hold up the measure.

"No matter what your views are on abortion, you shouldn't ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that abortion is taking a life -- to use their tax dollars for those purpose -- for that purpose," Gregg said on "FOX News Sunday." 

"I would hate to see the health care debate go down over that issue," Gregg added. "We do really need health care reform, and it has to be substantive ... So hopefully we won't get ourselves wrapped around the wheel of abortion in this debate."

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