Abortion Language in White House Health Care Proposal Worries Some in Washington

The 11 page White House proposal on health care has hit some snags in Washington, with outside groups complaining the language in the plan does not go far enough in explicitly banning the use of federal funds for abortions. Americans United for Life (AUL) is asking President Obama to re-evaluate the wording in his proposal regarding abortion, saying he had previously promised no federal dollars would be used to fund the procedure.

Charmaine Yoest, the director of Americans United for Life (AUL), has said repeatedly that her organization, which has met with various officials at the White House, would only be satisfied with a bill that strictly limits federal funding of abortions, language included in the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the House legislation, but not clarified in the Senate version. “The President promised the American people that 'no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.' Incredibly, his health care proposal doesn’t contain a single mention of the Life issue,” Yoest said in a statement. “As I made clear to the White House in a meeting last fall, unless they include specific legislative language banning the use of federal funds for abortion, they will be establishing taxpayer funding for abortion. Today was the President's opportunity to keep his word."

President Obama’s proposal on health care, published on Monday on the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov) specifically deals with the Senate legislation and not the House passed legislation. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer says the proposal is only an “opening bid” for a meeting Thursday at Blair House between Republicans, Democrats and the President and is seen as a way to bridge the differences between the House and Senate passed legislation. When asked about the abortion language during a telephone briefing with reporters, Pfeiffer said the language in the Senate bill was what the White House would be using for their proposal.

AUL argues the Senate bill’s funding restriction is too narrow and allows insurance plans that cover abortions to receive federal subsidies. “Any health care reform measure must explicitly exclude both federal funding for elective abortions and subsidization of insurance plans that cover abortions, and ensure that no government entity may mandate abortion coverage,“ Mary Harned, AUL’s Staff Counsel told Fox. “The abortion funding restriction in the Senate bill is narrow and explicitly allows insurance plans that cover abortions to receive federal subsidies. There are also loopholes in the Senate bill that could allow government entities to require private insurance companies to cover elective abortions. Therefore, the Senate bill needs language mirroring the Stupak-Pitts amendment, such as the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment that was offered and tabled on the Senate floor. "

The Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House legislation would prevent coverage for abortions in the so-called public option. The amendment also prevents private plans from offering coverage for abortion services if those plans accept people who receive government subsidies on health care. However, the Senate backed legislation does not have a public option as the House legislation does, and it has various other differences that need to be reconciled between the two houses of Congress, as well as the White House before any agreement can be reached on the overall bill.

Meanwhile, in advance of a protracted argument and potential filibuster on the entire bill, the White House is urging Republicans in the Senate and House to have an up or down vote on health care reform. "Our proposal is designed to give ourselves maximum flexibility to ensure that we can get an up or down vote if the opposition decides to take the extraordinary step of filibustering health reform,” Pfeiffer said.

The health care meeting between Republicans, Democrats and the President will take place Thursday and will be broadcast live on CSPAN.