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UPDATED: Perriello okays Senate bill abortion language, still undecided on health care

Rosalind Helderman

U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) announced in a statement today that he is satisfied that language in the Senate's health care bill will prevent federal funding for abortions, a condition for his support for health care legislation.

In the statement, Perriello said he remains undecided about whether to back the whole bill, which could be put to a vote in the House this week. But he said he believes the Senate's language on abortion meets his pledge not to allow federal funding for abortions--and other provisions of the bill will result in fewer abortions.

Perriello is considered Virginia's most vulnerable Democratic Congressman and both parties will be watching his votes carefully. He had previously backed the so-called Stupak Amendment to the House's health care bill, which not only prohibited federal funding for abortions but also would prevent some private individuals from getting coverage for abortions.

Andy Seré, a spokesman with the National Republican Congressional Committee, responds: "Rep. Perriello traveled up and down his district last summer looking Virginians in the eye and swearing he'd never vote to fund abortions with their tax dollars. Sadly, he's breaking that solemn promise."

Full Perriello statement after the jump.

Washington, DC -Rep. Tom Perriello released the following statement today:

"Since the beginning of the debate on health care reform, I have maintained a pledge that I would not support any health care reform bill that includes federal funding for abortion, and I stand by that pledge today. The original House bill language (Capps Amendment) did not meet this standard, and so I opposed that language. I voted for the Stupak Amendment--the only alternative offered at the time--because it ensured no federal funding of abortions, even though it also went beyond the current federal standard (Hyde Amendment) to prevent Americans from purchasing private insurance with their own dollars.

"As health care experts and pro-life leaders agree, the abortion language in the Senate bill upholds the Hyde Amendment standard. The Senate health care bill prevents federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortions, as the Catholic Hospital Association and legal experts have recently stated and as my own research has confirmed.

"Furthermore, several key yet unadvertised provisions of the bill are likely to reduce the number of abortions in this country in ways that move beyond politics toward a real impact on the culture of life in our country, such as those that provide $250 million for programs to support vulnerable pregnant women and increase the adoption tax credit, also making it refundable, so that lower income families can access it fully.

"I have tended to avoid the labels pro-life and pro-choice--often drawing ire from both sides of this debate--because I believe those labels serve to end debate rather than start us on a path towards solutions. I understand why many pro-choice groups consider the Senate language a major setback, but I made this pledge to the people I represent. Mired as we are in the issue of taxpayer dollars in this debate, we have not been discussing how this bill can reduce abortions. My hope is that, after this debate in the health care bill, lawmakers will come together to support a culture of life in their policy-making, including improving pre- and post-natal care.

"I have plenty of serious problems with the Senate bill and, until I see the final language, I cannot take a position on final passage. But the existing language on abortion in the current Senate bill meets the pledge I made to ensure no federal funding for abortion in this health care bill."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 16, 2010; 1:44 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman , Tom Perriello  
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