House Committee Rejects Limiting Abortion Coverage

By Ben Tan — August 3, 2009

A House committee rejected an anti-abortion amendment to President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare overhaul bill late Thursday. The reversal came hours after the measure was approved. The amendment said healthcare overhaul legislation may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion except when a woman’s life is in danger, or her pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

It was approved in the Energy and Commerce Committee by Republicans and conservative Democrats. But hours later committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman invoked House rules that allow him to bring up the amendment for a second vote, despite Republican objections. Conservative Democrat Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee changed his vote to no. A second conservative Democrat who hadn’t voted the first time, Rep. Zack Space of Ohio, voted no. It was enough to take down the amendment on a 30-29 vote.

The committee approved a Democrat-written measure specifying that abortions would not be required as part of basic gtovernment-approved insurance benefit packages. The measure, which passed 30-28, says health plans in a new purchasing exchange aren’t required to cover abortion, but each region of the country should have at least one plan that does so. The amendment also limits the use of federal funding for abortions. Democrats cast the measure as a compromise, though Republicans mostly opposed it.

The committee voted on various amendments late into the night and will resume today, when it is expected to vote on the full bill. The House Democrats have been pushing for a compromise health overhaul over liberals’ complaints, intent on success on Obama’s top domestic priority before a monthlong summer recess.

“We’ve got to pass the bill,” Waxman said.

“Not only do we have to, but we’re going to.”

His Energy and Commerce Committee was the last of three House committees to act on the sweeping legislation.

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