White House Not Planning to Ask Congressional Democrats to Adopt Obama's Stated Position of Opposing Abortion Funding in Health Care Bill

November 3, 2009 - 5:52 PM
The leading pro-life Democrat in the House said he has spoken with the White House and House Democratic leaders in recent days about his amendment to explicitly prohibit abortion funding in the health care bill, but there is still no agreement, and he still plans to kill the bill if not given an up or down vote on his amendment. 

Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) speaks to students on steps of Capitol. (Congressional photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The leading pro-life Democrat in the House of Representatives said he has spoken with the White House and House Democratic leaders in recent days about his amendment to explicitly prohibit abortion funding in the health care reform bill, but there is still no agreement, and he still intends to block the bill if his amendment is not given a straight up or down vote.
 
Further, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was noncommittal when asked whether the White House would intervene and ask the House Democratic leaders to take President Obama's stated position, which is that the bill should not allow federal dollars to fund abortions.

“I have had some serious conversations over the past few days with the White House and the House leadership, and I will continue to make every attempt to resolve the issue of public funding for abortion,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, told CNSNews.com in a statement.
 
“However, there is no agreement,” he said, “and I will oppose bringing the bill to the floor until an amendment can be offered or language agreed to that will prevent public funding for abortion.”
 
Stupak told CNSNews.com last month that about 40 pro-life Democrats are prepared to vote to kill the health care overhaul--which is set to come up in the House on Thursday--unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees to allow a vote on his amendment which would prohibit and  federal dollars from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs again would not say whether President Barack Obama would ask House Democratic leaders to include language in the nearly 2,000-page health care bill to explicitly prevent federal dollars from funding abortion--even though President Obama has said his position is that the bill should not allow federal funding of abortion. Indeed, Gibbs appeared to indicate that the administration was not going to take any position as the issue was being debated in Congress.
 
“I’m not going to interject from here into a process of a discussion on the House side into how that’s addressed,” Gibbs told a reporter on Tuesday who asked if Obama would back language supported by some House Democrats to excise the abortion funding aspect in the bill.
 
While Gibbs referred to himself and not the president, it was the most definitive answer he has given on the question of whether Obama would support language barring abortion funding in the health care bill.
 
Gibbs told CNSNews.com last week that he would check with the White House Office of Legislative Affairs to see if the president would intervene with the House Democratic leaders on Stupak’s request. Stupak has said that so far he has had no luck in working with the Democratic leadership on his amendment.

Gibbs has in the past insisted that existing federal laws would prohibit funding of abortion, alluding to the Hyde amendment that blocks funding for abortion in the annual Health and Human Services budget. But this position has been strenuously rebutted by Stupak, the National Right to Life Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Republican members of Congress. 

Last week, Gibbs said, “I know that the president's position on this has been clear, that no federal money should be used to pay for abortions in a health care bill.”
 
Both the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and FactCheck.org sau that the health care reform legislation drafted in Congress would allow federal subsidies to go to individuals buying health insurance policies that cover abortion.
 
An amendment inserted into the House bill sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and included in the version of the bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee would require that federal insurance subsidies go to insurance plans that cover abortion.
 
“It absolutely allows for abortion funding under the House plan,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) told CNSNews.com on Tuesday. “There is no difference in forcing pro-lifers to pay for abortions directly through their tax dollars and making pro-lifers pay for abortions through their insurance premiums.”