Pelosi Prefers Senate Abortion Language

Posted November 19, 2009 at 12:18pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rarely misses a chance to defend her chamber’s prerogative, but on one sticking point in the health care debate — abortion — she is casting her lot with the Senate. Pelosi on Thursday made clear she prefers the Senate approach, friendlier to abortion-rights advocates, to the much stricter version that House Democrats adopted in their package at the last minute to win the votes of a small clutch of anti-abortion Democratic holdouts. “I’m pleased with the language that’s in the Senate bill and I think it’s pretty clear that no federal funds will be spent on abortion,— Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. The Senate version, unveiled Wednesday evening by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), would allow women receiving federal subsidies the option to choose insurance plans covering abortion in a new health insurance exchange. The procedure would have to be paid for with money derived from premiums instead of federal taxes. And the Senate bill allows the public insurance option to pay for abortions, but only if the money could be segregated so no federal tax dollars are used for the services. Abortion-rights opponents have panned the approach as accounting gimmickry. The House version, under an amendment crafted by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), takes a significantly harder line, barring the public plan from offering the procedure and prohibiting women receiving any federal subsidies from purchasing coverage that offers it through the exchange. Pelosi said that language “goes beyond maintaining the status quo.—The debate over how to handle the matter remains one of the most explosive remaining for Democratic lawmakers, but Pelosi expressed confidence that abortion-rights advocates and foes will find common ground. “We also agree — I don’t like to use the word — but it will be abortion neutral, it will not have any federal funding for abortion, and we will pass a bill. So with all of that common ground, I trust that we will have a resolution,— she said. The Speaker did manage to sneak some plugs for other aspects of the House bill, noting that it takes effect in 2013, a year before the Senate version, and covers 5 million more people. “But again, we’ll work all of this out in conference,— she said.