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Abortion could stymie healthcare reform legislation

Anti-abortion House Democrats – led by Rep. Bart Stupak – are threatening to vote against the healthcare reform bill because they believe it might allow federal funds to be used to pay for abortions.

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Rep. Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan speaks during a news conference on healthcare reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 4. Representative Stupak leads anti-abortion Democrats in the House.

Harry Hamburg/AP

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Will abortion wreck President Obama’s healthcare reform efforts?

It’s possible. Some anti-abortion House Democrats are threatening to vote against the healthcare bill because they believe it might allow federal funds to be used to pay for the procedure.

However, the leader of this group, Rep. Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan, said Monday he’s optimistic about resolving the problem. And White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Tuesday reiterated that when it comes to this explosive issue the administration just wants to maintain the status quo.

“This is not a bill about abortion. This is about healthcare reform,” said Mr. Gibbs in an ABC broadcast interview. (Monitor report: President Obama is in do-or-die mode on healthcare reform.)

Differences in legislative language

The dispute involves a subtle difference in language between the version of healthcare reform passed by the House and the version passed by the Senate.

In the House bill, insurance firms would be prohibited from offering coverage for abortion, except in isolated instances, to people who receive federal subsidies that help them buy coverage. If a woman wanted abortion coverage, she would have to buy a separate policy with her own money.

In the Senate bill, insurance firms would be able to offer policies that include abortion coverage to people helped by federal subsidies. However, none of Uncle Sam’s cash could be used to pay for the abortion-related portion of that insurance. A woman would have to write a separate check, with her own money, to pay for it.

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