President Obama signed an executive order today making sure that existing limits on the federal funding of abortions will remain in place under the new health care reform law. This was part of a deal made with anti-abortion Democrats in exchange for support of the health care bill.
Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan led anti-abortion Democrats in the House againts the new health care law because, he claimed it would allow federal funding for abortions beyond current limits. Stupak and 12 other House Democrats opposed to abortion rights attended the signing. It is likely that the bill would not have passed with out the support of these key Democrats.
The controversy centered on whether the bill would force all taxpayers into paying for abortions, by subsidizing insurance policies that pay for the procedure and by funding federal health clinics that might offer abortions.
Under the exchanges, which are part of the health care reform bill, there must be a plan that offers abortion coverage and another that doesn’t. In a compromise with abortion opponents, Democrats also added language requiring anyone whose policy does cover abortion to pay separately a small surcharge, with the funds kept separate.
The White House says that the executive order reaffirms abortion funding restirctions first enacted in 1977 under the Hyde Amendment.