Sebelius: No public abortion funding in health care bill

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 13, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pledged Sunday that President Barack Obama will support barring public funding for abortion in any health care overhaul legislation.

"That's exactly what the president said and I think that's what he intends, that the bill he signs will do," she said on ABC's "This Week."

Abortion policy has been an ongoing concern throughout the health care debate. In July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee attempted to compromise on abortion funding as it wrote its version of the health care bill.

The bill would permit the proposed public health care plan to fund abortions, though not with federal money.

The provision was approved by only a 30-28 vote by the committee, as six Democrats joined 22 Republicans to vote against it. Anti-abortion groups labeled the measure a "sham," but abortion rights backers said that without such protection, women who use the "public option" could be barred from obtaining abortions.

Currently, federal money can only be used for abortions that deal with pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or that endanger the mother's life.

"There's no intent to change the language that's in the current Medicaid statute, which has been there for years and provides insurance to millions of Americans," Sebelius said Sunday.

Anti-abortion groups remained wary. Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life legislative director, noted that "for months the president, his staff, and his congressional allies have misrepresented actual language in their bills that would result in government funding of elective abortions."

"The latest statements by Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius are most likely a continuation of their strategy of denial, evasion and distortion," Johnson said in a statement Sunday. "We say, watch what they do, not what they say."

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