Abortion Deal Clears Way for Health Care Vote

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

House Democrats reached an agreement on a contentious abortion provision overnight that appears to clear the way for a final vote on health care legislation today.

The agreement will allow a vote on an amendment, authored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., that would bar funds going toward abortion under both the public option and any private plans that participate in the new insurance exchange.

A similar amendment was rejected in committee earlier this year. But a group of roughly 40 Democrats who oppose abortion rights threatened to sink the entire health care bill without the provision, which explicitly extends the so-called “Hyde amendment” barring taxpayer dollars going toward abortions to the new entities created under the health care measure.

“From day one, my goal has been to ensure federal tax dollars are not used to pay for abortions and to provide Americans with pro-life options on the exchange. And I am proud to be part of an effort to make this goal a reality,” Ellsworth said in a statement.

Democratic leadership aides say the agreement puts them in striking distance of securing a majority for the health care reform bill. But, with at least 15 Democrats already saying publicly they’ll vote “no,” the tally will be close.

In a critical boost, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the amendment today, after a series of meetings with top House leaders last night.

The Stupak-Ellsworth amendment goes further than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other abortion-rights supporters wanted, but House leaders desperately want to pass the bill today. Planned Parenthood put out a scathing statement early this morning condemning the amendment.

“This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all, by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes. Women won’t stand for legislation that takes away their current benefits and leaves them worse off after health care reform than they are today,” said Cecile Richardson, Planned Parenthood’s president.

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