Obama weighs in on abortion -- carefully
By Ben Pershing
Liberals spent a good portion of the health-care debate complaining that President Obama was insufficiently committed to including the public option in a reform bill, accusing him of sacrificing a cause that was important to them for the sake of political expediency. It sounds as though Obama is trying -- cautiously -- to avoid the same charge on abortion.
In an interview with ABC News Monday, Obama weighed in on the controversy that has divided Democrats. "I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices, because one of the pledges I made in that same speech was to say that if you're happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, that it's not going to change." He added: "There are strong feelings on both sides, and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."
What exactly does all that "on the one hand, on the other hand" mean? The New York Times writes that Obama "suggested Monday that he was not comfortable with abortion restrictions inserted into the House version of major health care legislation, and he prodded Congress to revise them." Roll Call says abortion rights supporters "got a critical boost" from Obama's comments, and adds that more than 40 Democrats have now vowed to vote against a conference report that includes the Stupak language. How should the language be changed, and if it is, would the coalition that passed the measure in the House Saturday fall apart? Politico writes that Senate moderates like Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and Mary Landrieu all urged Harry Reid Monday to include restrictions on abortion funding in the Senate bill as well.
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