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Obama Doesn't Want Abortion Subsidies in Health Reform Bill

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, November 10, 2009

Following the House health reform vote (HR 3962) on Saturday, President Barack acknowledged that he will have to tread carefully on several controversial parts of the legislation—including the amendment addressing abortion funding.

While no Senate version yet exists, the bill passed in October by the Senate Finance Committee calls for insurers to keep federal subsidies separate from any funds used to pay for abortions. Supporters of that provision say it would preserve current federal law that bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

The version that narrowly passed in the House has tighter restriction on using federal subsidies to purchase insurance policies with abortion coverage—an issue that had angered supporters of abortion rights.

In an interview Monday night with ABC News, he said that he "laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a healthcare bill—not an abortion bill." He added: "We're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions."

"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions," he said. "But, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices, because one of the pledges I made in that same speech was to say that if you're happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, that it's not going to change."

As for an eventual reconciliation process between the House and the Senate bills “is going to be a complex set of negotiations," he said. "I'm confident that we can actually arrive at this place where neither side feels that it's being betrayed. But it's going to take some time."

On the issue of Medicare cuts currently proposed in both bills, Obama said he will stand behind them to achieve deficit-neutral legislation.

"I actually have said that it is important for us to make sure this thing is deficit neutral—without tricks. I said I wouldn't sign a bill that didn't meet that criteria," he said.

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