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Pelosi Tries to Quell Concerns Over Abortion in Health Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday met privately with anti-abortion Democrats to try to stem growing concerns that abortion services could end up being part of a government-subsidized health care plan.Nineteen Democrats last month sent a letter to Pelosi threatening to oppose any health care bill that doesn’t clarify that federal dollars won’t be used for abortions. Specifically, abortion foes say the bill allows for the possibility that the Health Benefits Advisory Committee will recommend that abortion services be included as part of a benefits package. Unless the bill has a clear exclusion, the lawmakers say, federal dollars could be used to finance abortions across the country.Pelosi tried to find common ground on the issue in a private meeting with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) — Pelosi’s point person on the Energy and Commerce Committee — and anti-abortion Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). Beyond that meeting, however, anti-abortion Democrats say Pelosi has yet to respond to their concerns by making changes to the health care reform bill.And in the meantime, Democratic opposition to federally funded abortions appears to be growing: Last week, 39 Democrats voted with Republicans to amend the D.C. appropriations bill to bar the use of local dollars for abortions for low-income women. The amendment narrowly failed.“They can continue to ignore us if they want, but at their peril,— said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), co-chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus.Stupak said he didn’t know how many Democrats would ultimately oppose the health care bill over the abortion provision. But he said to expect anti-abortion Members to make their voices heard during the vote on the bill’s rule, “if we have to come and force the issue on the floor.—The Michigan Democrat said some Democrats who support abortion rights would oppose the rule, too, because “they just think it’s wrong.—Asked what middle ground there is on the bill’s language, Stupak said the measure should leave the law the way it is. Current law only allows the use of federal dollars for abortion services in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Values Action Team, said he is bracing for Democrats to unveil a “phony compromise— designed to give vulnerable Democrats cover on the issue.“It may express opposition to abortion, say that we’re going to do something through some board or something,— Pitts said. “It’s got to be statutory. We must see it in writing.—