Does Obama Support or Oppose Amendment to Prohibit Abortion Funding in Health Bill? White House Isn’t Saying

By Fred Lucas | October 14, 2009 | 7:13 PM EDT

( - Does President Obama support or oppose an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.) that would explicitly prohibit federal funding of abortion in the health-care bill now being considered in Congress? As of now, the White House isn’t saying.
On Wednesday, the White House did not respond to’s direct written question on the matter. At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to specifically address Stupak’s amendment.

The amendment says: “No funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except” in the cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.
The amendment is co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R.-Pa.), and mirrors the language of the Hyde amendment, which is included in each year’s Health and Human Services appropriation bill to prohibit abortion funding in programs funded by that particular appropriations bill in that particular year. Stupak’s amendment would permanently bar abortion funding in the new programs that would be created by the health-care bill. These new programs will not be funded through the annual HHS appropriation that carries the Hyde amendment.
Stupak told in a statement last week that he and other pro-life Democrats would try to block the health care bill itself if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not allow a vote on his amendment in the full House when the health care bill comes up for consideration.
“There are many of us Democrats in the House who are philosophically, legally, and morally opposed to public funding for abortions,” Stupak told in a statement last Friday.
“We want the chance to offer our amendment, the Hyde Amendment, on the floor of the House. If our amendment is not made in order we will try to shut down the rule, preventing the health care bill from coming to the floor for a vote,” Stupak stated. “If the speaker believes that abortion funding is not in the bill then she should let me have my amendment, because if anything it would just be redundant.”
At Tuesday’s press briefing, asked Gibbs about Stupak’s plan to stop the health care bill if his amendment does not get a vote in the full House.  In responding, Gibbs did not address Stupak’s amendment itself but pointed to answers he gave at press briefings last Wednesday and Friday. asked Gibbs on Tuesday: “Robert, just want to revisit an issue from last week. Congressman Bart Stupak has talked about possibly holding up the bill, unless there’s Hyde-like language--
Gibbs: “I know you asked this question twice last week, so we're on like--” “This is a different question, this is a different question.”
Gibbs: “I'm sure it is.” “If Hyde-like language is already in the bill, would there be any reason for Democrats not to support this language if it's”--
Gibbs: “I have not seen what Congressman Stupak said most recently. I would refer you to the answers I gave you on this question just twice last week.”
Gibbs was referring to questions had asked him last Wednesday and Friday about two letters that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had sent to Congress in which the bishops stated and then restated that no current version of the health care bill prohibits abortion funding and that without such a prohibition the bishops would oppose the bill.
Gibbs had contradicted the bishops, saying that the current law barring federal funding of abortion (the Hyde amendment that is attached to each year’s Health and Human Services appropriation) would also apply to the health-care bill and that the bishops had misinterpreted the law.
Yesterday, Gibbs did not respond to a written question from asking: “Does the president support, does he oppose or does he not have a position on the Stupak amendment?”
Gibbs’s argument that the Hyde amendment would prohibit abortion funding in the health care bill is rejected not only by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops but also by National Right to Life. Analyzing President Obama’s claim that the health care bill does not fund abortion, the independent group concluded: “Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans.”
Stupak wants to attach the language of the Hyde Amendment to the health care bill itself so abortion funding explicitly prohibited under taxpayer-subsidized insurance plans. If the rule that would govern debate on the health care bill and stipulate which proposed
amendments are eligible for votes on the House floor is defeated by a vote of the House, the health care bill itself would die.
Stupak told Fox News last month he believed he had enough votes lined up to defeat the rule if Speaker Pelosi does not agree to allow a vote on an amendment to explicitly bar abortion funding through the bill.