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Abortion continues to be dividing issue

Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2009

The Senate nudged its health bill toward tighter restrictions on abortion coverage, a change that left advocates on both sides of the issue unsatisfied. Under a deal with Sen. Ben Nelson, women who receive a new tax credit to buy insurance would write a separate check with their own money for abortion coverage, and states would explicitly have the option of barring such coverage from plans sold on new insurance exchanges. However, the language is less sweeping than that adopted by the House in November, which abortion-rights groups interpreted as the most significant setback in Congress for their cause in many years. As it did in the House, abortion threatened to sink the healthcare bill at the last minute in the Senate. Nelson, an antiabortion Democrat, vowed to withhold his vote unless the bill included more stringent requirements to ensure no federal money goes toward paying for abortion. The debate centered around the insurance exchanges, where people who don't have coverage elsewhere will be able to comparison-shop for plans. The House language prohibits anyone who gets a tax credit from enrolling in a policy that covers abortion. The Senate would allow states in effect to match that restriction if they choose, but in other states the Senate language wouldn't be as restrictive. It says women can get the coverage if they write two checks to their insurer, one for abortion and one for everything else. The change in the Senate bill is expected to be adopted this week.