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Cracks appear in abortion front against healthcare reform

The coalition of Catholics and anti-abortion advocates that has opposed healthcare reform – saying it could allow federal funds for abortion – is slowly splintering.

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Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) of Ohio talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Mr. Wilson, an anti-abortion Catholic, has hinted that he is leaning toward supporting the healthcare reform bill.

Harry Hamburg/AP

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A widening split among opponents of abortion could help pave the way to passage for President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation.

Increasingly, abortion foes – including high-profile Catholic organizations and members of Congress – are saying that while the language aimed at preventing use of federal funds for abortion is not perfect, the bill is still worth passing as a first step.

The Catholic Health Association, which represents more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the US, came out earlier this week in favor of the president’s plan, arguing that comprehensive reform is a “moral imperative.” On Wednesday, 60 Catholic nuns representing most of the nation’s 59,000 nuns sent a letter to Congress, also urging passage of the bill.

The one-two punch represents an extraordinary display of dissent against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the official leadership of the US church, which favors universal healthcare but opposes the president’s plan over the abortion issue.

Congressmen break ranks

In addition, some Catholic Democrats in Congress who oppose abortion have begun to peel away and signal either definite or likely support for the president’s plan, which is the Senate-passed version, plus fixes (none of them abortion-related).

“At this point, I’m confident the Senate language upholds my pro-life values,” said Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) of Ohio on a conference call Thursday.

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