Conservatives Wary of Abortion Coverage in Health Care Reform

As House Democrats speed toward unveiling their health care reform package, conservatives are actively campaigning against letting it slip by with abortion coverage.

On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved adding a provision to the health care bill that would require abortion groups to be included in any health insurance network created by the bill, according to Family Research Council.

"It's ironic that Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and the committee Democrats would consider taxpayer-funded abortions to be a health care benefit since the baby gets no health care benefit from abortion," said FRC president Tony Perkins. "President Obama and the Democrat leadership claim they want to 'reduce' abortion, but you don't reduce abortion by funding it."

The lawmakers have avoided specifically mentioning "abortion" in the legislation and have instead used terms such as family planning and reproductive health care. But on Thursday during a HELP meeting, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) pressed Mikulski about the language in the amendment.

Mikulski stammeringly responded, "It would include, uh, Planned, uh, Parenthood clinics. It would, um, it does not expand in any way expand a service. In other words, it does not expand, um, uh, or mandate abortion service."

"It would provide for any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate," she added.

Hatch said it would be difficult for him to support legislation that includes abortion coverage and asked for language that would exclude such services.

Mikulski rejected the request.

A ban on federally funded abortions has been in place for more than 30 years. The Hyde Amendment, passed by the House in 1976, prohibits states from using federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortion.

Last month, 19 pro-life Democrats in the House said in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they would not support any health care reform legislation unless "it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health-insurance plan."

"The health-care-reform package produced by Congress will be landmark and with legislation as important as this, abortion must be addressed clearly in the bill text," they wrote.

The Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council is campaigning to prevent taxpayers from being forced to pay for abortions and has called for a permanent prohibition on taxpayer-funded abortions.

House leaders are expected to unveil health care legislation Monday and bring it to a vote before the Senate leaves for its summer recess in August.