By Mike Soraghan - 11/19/09 05:43 PM EST
Speaker Nancy Pelosi prefers abortion language in the Senate healthcare legislation to the approach her chamber took with its bill.
"I'm pleased with the language in the Senate bill," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said of the bill her counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), rolled out Wednesday. "I think it's pretty clear no federal funds would be used to pay for abortion."
Reid left out the language drafted by abortion-rights opponent Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). The so-called "Stupak amendment" would ban coverage of elective abortions by the public health insurance plan and forbid insurers from offering it to anyone who receives new federal subsidies for health premiums.
Instead, Reid sought to maintain current law where that is applicable and extend it to new programs created by the legislation.
Abortion-rights supporters, including Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), have praised Reid’s approach. But anti-abortion groups have lambasted it, calling it "completely unacceptable."
"Reid seeks to cover elective abortions in two big new federal health programs, but tries to conceal that unpopular reality with layers of contrived definitions and hollow bookkeeping requirements," said Doug Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
Pelosi appears to find the Stupak amendment unacceptable.
"We all have agreed that we would maintain the status quo, there would be no federal funding for abortion," Pelosi said. "I believe the Stupak amendment goes beyond maintaining the status quo."
She also alluded to grumbling from many of her fellow liberal Democrats that opponents of the healthcare legislation might be using the abortion issue to undermine the bill.
"We're going to pass a bill. For those who want to use any excuse not to pass a bill, well, that's another story," Pelosi said. "This is not a bill about abortion, this is a bill about healthcare."
Pelosi voted against the Stupak amendment, but she made the decision to allow an up-or-down vote on the amendment after negotiations on the abortion language broke down. Leaders feared that anti-abortion Democrats would unite with Republicans to defeat or block consideration of the healthcare bill if they didn't get a vote on Stupak.
But 41 abortion-rights Democrats in the House have promised to vote against the conference report if it includes the Stupak language. If Republicans unite against it, those 41 could also sink the bill.