Pelosi’s comments on abortion funding ignore serious problems, USCCB official says

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

.- An official with the U.S. bishops’ pro-life activities office has countered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that proposed health care legislation does not fund abortion, saying that the abortion funding problems in the bill are so serious the bishops will have to oppose the legislation.

At a Friday press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked whether Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was wrong in stating that the legislation would allow tax dollars to fund abortion and whether this would be an obstacle to the progress of the bill.

Saying she had talked to the Catholic bishops about the issue, she said “federal law prevents federal funding of abortion.”

“There is no federal funding of abortion in this bill. There’ll be no expansion or diminution of a woman’s right to choose and that does not happen in this bill, and we’re determined that we are going to pass health care reform.

“This bill that passed the Senate does not have federal funding of abortion,” continued Speaker Pelosi, reports.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), discussed the proposed bill in an e-mail to

“We do not know how anyone who has spoken to the bishops could conclude that the Senate health care bill does not fund abortions,” Doerflinger wrote.

“As the bishops have said in their letters to Congress, abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved”

According to Doerflinger, the Senate health care bill contains some language limiting the direct use to subsidize abortion coverage, but still violates “longstanding precedent on abortion funding.”

The Senate bill limits only the use of tax credits for abortion in qualified health plans, and not other funding in the bill.

Doerflinger cited the $7 billion for services at community health centers, whose funding is increased to $11 billion in President Obama’s proposal.

“The Hyde amendment does not prevent direct use of these billions of dollars for elective abortions (because the funds are not provided through the appropriations bill governed by Hyde), nor does any provision in the Senate bill,” he told

Additionally, the Senate’s language on tax credits still allows subsidies for overall health plans that cover elective abortions. This is contrary to the policy of the Hyde Amendment and other federal laws.

“The bill requires each American purchasing such a plan to make a separate payment to the insurer every month, solely to pay for other people’s abortions,” Doerflinger continued, calling this an “enormous imposition” on the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose abortion.

The USCCB has issued a 13-page document explaining how the Senate bill allows tax dollars to fund abortion. It says only the House bill, which contains the Stupak Amendment, conforms to current law on abortion funding.

Under the Senate bill, despite a provision segregating funds, federal subsidies will be used to help expand nationwide access to abortion coverage. contacted Rep. Bart Stupak spokeswoman Michelle Begnoche, who said Rep. Stupak has made clear his view that the Senate language is “a departure from current law and is unacceptable.”

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), charged that Speaker Pelosi’s claim that the Senate bill does not fund abortions was “the same deceptive claptrap.”

“She is back to the old denial and deception approach, but she has no credibility on this issue,” he continued, claiming that the twenty-five percent of Democratic Congressmen who had voted for the Stupak Amendment repudiated the House Speaker’s claim about abortion funding.


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