ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports:
The chairman of the Republican National Committee announced late Thursday that he is unilaterally ending coverage of elective abortion under the RNC's Cigna health-care plan.
"Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose," said RNC Chair Michael Steele in a written statement. "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."
The RNC's coverage of elective abortion, which began in 1991, was first reported on Thursday evening by Politico.
The RNC's current leadership says it was unaware that abortion was included in the party's health insurance plan until Politico contacted the press office on Wednesday.
Once the Politico story was published on Thursday evening, the RNC told ABC News that its insurance plan could only be changed by the party's 27-member executive committee.
Because of this procedural requirement, RNC chief of staff Ken McKay sent a memo to the RNC's 168 members saying that the chairman was calling on the party's 27-member executive committee to review the RNC's coverage of elective abortion in the "immediate future."
Then, at 11:39 pm ET, the RNC went a step further and announced that Steele was taking matters into his own hands.
According to RNC press secretary Gail Gitcho, once Steele learned of the party's coverage of elective abortion, he "instructed the RNC Director of Administration to opt the RNC out of any coverage for elective abortion services in its health insurance policy.'
Abortion is a politically sensitive issue for Steele. Although he describes himself as pro-life, he has been criticized in the past by some conservatives because he believes that the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision upholding a federal right to abortion should remain in place under the doctrine of stare decisis.