Pro-Choice Caucus leaders have 'serious reservations' on abortion compromise

The Senate's healthcare bill is cause for "serious reservations," the leaders of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus warned Saturday.

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the co-chairwomen of the abortion-rights caucus, stopped short of saying they would oppose the Senate bill's abortion language as similarly-aligned groups have.

"As the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, we have serious reservations about the abortion provision included in the U.S. Senate’s health care bill," the lawmakers said.

"This provision is not only offensive to people who believe in choice, but it is also possibly unconstitutional," DeGette and Slaughter added. "As we have maintained throughout this process, health care reform should not be misused to take away access to health care."

Groups supporting abortion rights, such as the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have urged lawmakers to oppose the Senate bill, which was modified on Saturday to curtail federal support for abortion.

The Senate compromise, which seeks to segregate federal dollars from subsidizing the purchase of healthcare plans covering abortion, was included in the manager's amendment Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced to the Senate healthcare bill this morning. The compromise was intended to win the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in order to secure 60 votes to end debate and pass the health reform package.

Republicans and abortion-rights opponents strongly criticized the provision as failing to prevent federal support for pregnancy terminations, making for an unusual alliance with opponents of abortion rights. In addition, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the lawmaker who introduced similar restrictions in the House, said the Senate's language didn't go far enough to curtail support for abortions.

DeGette and Slaughter had previously warned that if the final healthcare bill were to include restrictions on abortion spending, they would lead the Pro-Choice Caucus against the bill.

"The more than 190-member Caucus will review this language carefully as we move forward on health care reform," the two said.

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