Can Obama health bill overcome abortion issue?

President's proposal uses less restrictive Senate language, could mean losing a few pivotal votes in House

Published February 22, 2010 9:23PM (EST)

The White House may be hoping its own healthcare reform proposal finally bridges the gap between what the House and Senate have been working on, and it certainly gets some of the way there, but there are still some outstanding issues that will have to be dealt with.

One of those issues is abortion, and whether federal money will be used to pay for it under the legislation. That question went under the radar for some time last year, until it exploded when anti-abortion Democrats successfully got the Stupak Amendment added to the House bill. It's since gone quiet again, but there's a real chance for it to pop back up.

President Obama's proposal uses the Senate bill's language about abortion funding, not the Stupak Amendment's. That could be a problem, considering that Stupak previously threatened to walk away from any bill that didn't contain his amendment, and to take up to 20 other House members with him. Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply can't afford that kind of mass defection -- even the loss of a few votes could be fatal to the bill's chances.

So far, Stupak's office hasn't been talking about whether the congressman will make good on his promise. A spokeswoman didn't return a message Salon left seeking comment, and declined to comment to Politico.

But at least one group that opposes abortion has made it clear it will be fighting against Obama's proposal. The legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee put out a statement slamming the way abortion funding would be dealt with, saying, "Any member of Congress who votes for the final legislation proposed by President Obama will be voting for direct federal funding of elective abortion through Community Health Centers, and also an array of other pro-abortion federal subsidies and mandates."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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