Abortion compromise language called a 'sham'

Staunch anti-abortion groups and lawmakers have denounced compromise language proposed for the House healthcare reform bill as a "sham."

The language was drafted by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), an anti-abortion Democrat, in order to soothe concerns among some other abortion opponents that federal money could be used for abortions under the current language of the House healthcare bill.

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Ellsworth's attempt to reach a compromise on the change in language has become pivotal in preventing Democratic efforts to take up the healthcare bill by Saturday from fizzling.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has been spearheading an anti-abortion effort and says that he has another 40 members committed to vote against taking up the overall healthcare bill on the House floor if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refuses to allow the lower chamber to consider an amendment he authored strictly prohibiting federal dollars from paying for abortions.

But Stupak has been home due to the recent death of his mother-in-law, and is not scheduled to return to D.C. until the end of the week.

Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) suggested that leaders were latching on to Ellsworth's plan as a "compromise" in order to exploit Stupak's absence.

Pitts called Ellsworth’s amendment a “sham” because “what the ‘so-called’ compromise does is add another layer" to an accounting gimmick.

“They are trying to peel off one or two, that’s all they need, like Ellsworth,” Pitts, a co-sponsor of Stupak's amendment, told The Hill on Wednesday, noting that any compromise short of the Hyde amendment would be unacceptable to the anti-abortion community.

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But adding Stupak's language could cause equally vociferous opposition among pro-abortion rights Democrats; leaving a majority of the caucus working to avoid a showdwn.

Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (Calif.) all say the current bill would not fund abortions. But critics like Stupak point out that public funds could be spent on plans that include abortion coverage.

According to Stupak's office, the Michigan lawmaker "is reviewing Rep. Ellsworth's proposed language, but continues to hold firm on his amendment which says no public funding for abortion."

Stupak has been in contact with Congressional leaders and the White House.