(CNN) – As Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to avoid a brewing intra-party battle over treatment of abortion in health care reform legislation, a top presidential adviser is reiterating that President Obama remains opposed to legislation that contains language preferred by more conservative Democrats in Congress.
In an effort ensure passage of the health care reform bill in the House, last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi permitted a group of approximately 40 anti-abortion Democrats to present an amendment that prohibits any insurance plan offered on a new health insurance exchange from offering coverage for abortion. The amendment is named after one of its sponsors, Bart Stupak of Michigan.
After the Stupak amendment passed with an assist from many House Republicans, more progressive, pro-abortion rights Democrats in the House and the Senate began organizing in an effort to eliminate the provision from the final version of the bill that will be voted on by both chambers and presented to President Obama for his signature. Abortion rights advocates regard the Stupak amendment as changing the status quo, a longstanding compromise between the two sides in the abortion debate. The compromise is best expressed through the Hyde amendment, a rider to an annual spending bill. The amendment, which is renewed every year, prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion and has, for many years, prohibited the federal government from paying for abortions as part of the Medicaid program. But abortion rights activists say the Stupak amendment goes further, effectively prohibiting even individuals who are using their own money to buy coverage on the exchange from obtaining coverage for abortion.
In an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Obama adviser David Axelrod reiterated the president’s position on how abortion should be handled in the debate over health care reform.
“The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn’t believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion,” Axelrod told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “He’s going to work with the Senate and the House to try to ensure that at the end of the day the status quo is not changed.”
Asked specifically whether the Stupak amendment changed the status quo, Axelrod replied “I think it’s fair to say the bill Congress passed does change the status quo. But I believe there are discussions ongoing as to how to change it accordingly.”
King asked Axelrod whether the president would sign a final health care bill that contains the Stupak amendment. Likening it to Obama’s position on the public health insurance, Axelrod said Obama “believes both these issues and can and will be worked through before [the final bill] reaches his desk.”