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Abortion could upend House healthcare bill

Sally Freeman holds a sign as Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) delivers an address on health care reform at Stroger Hospital in Chicago on November 2, 2009. Burris stated his support for a strong public option. UPI/Brian Kersey
Sally Freeman holds a sign as Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) delivers an address on health care reform at Stroger Hospital in Chicago on November 2, 2009. Burris stated his support for a strong public option. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A split within the Democratic party over abortion could jeopardize the healthcare reform bill when it goes to the floor in the U.S. House, observers said.

House leaders negotiated Monday with a bloc of Democrats concerned the bill's abortion provisions could lead to public funding of abortions, The Washington Post reported.

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"We're making progress," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said of discussions, but added no agreement has been reached.

Democrats need the majority of their members to back the bill, since nearly all House Republicans vowed to oppose it.

The abortion dispute centers on federal subsidies that would be provided for people who cannot afford healthcare coverage and the government insurance alternative included in the House version. A 1976 law generally bars federal funds from being used for abortions, except for rape, incest or to save the mother's life.

House Democratic leaders this summer backed a provision that would allow people to use subsidies provided in bill to buy insurance plans covering abortion, but would direct that the actual procedure be paid by an individual or through employer healthcare premiums. Opponents called the language an accounting ploy, the Post said.

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Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who opposes the provision as written, said last week 40 Democrats -- enough to derail the bill -- could vote with him.

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