*Obama abortion stance garners votes for health reform
*Republicans disappointed in Obama planned order
(Adds quotes, reaction)
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, March 21 President Barack Obama
announced on Sunday he will reaffirm a ban on using federal
funds to pay for abortions, which convinced some holdout
Democrats to support the healthcare overhaul but riled
Republicans who said the decision could be easily reversed.
The White House said Obama would issue an executive order
after the passage of the healthcare reform legislation that
would reaffirm the measure's "consistency with longstanding
restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion."
The U.S. right to abortion was recognized in the landmark
1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, but federal funding
of most abortions has been limited since 1976, and the issue is
one of the most highly charged in the U.S. abortion debate.
Representative Bart Stupak, an abortion opponent who led a
group of reluctant fellow Democrats, responded to the White
House announcement of Obama's intended order by saying, 'We
have an agreement."
Stupak's support could give Democrats in the House of
Representatives the 216 votes they need to pass the bill. The
vote is expected later on Sunday.
As debate proceeded on Capitol Hill in advance of the
healthcare vote, Republican abortion foes expressed doubt and
disappointment at Obama's intended order on abortion funding.
Representative Chris Smith, a longtime Republican opponent
of abortion, called the order a "trick" and said the bill
included a "congressionally mandated tax to support abortion."
"Unborn children and mothers will be killed by abortion in
larger numbers as a direct result of this legislation, should
it be enacted into law," Smith said at a briefing with other
"An executive order issued by the president is not worth
the paper it is printed on," said Republican Representative
Jean Schmidt. "It can be rescinded in the blink of an eye."
The National Right to Life Committee, which opposes
abortion, said the executive order was being issued for
political effect: "It does not correct any of the serious
pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend
a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce
what the law says."
NARAL Pro-Choice America, which favors abortion rights,
called the action by Stupak and other Democratic abortion
opponents "deeply disappointing," and said withholding federal
funds for abortions "blocks low-income women from receiving
full reproductive-health care."
(Reporting by John Whitesides and Deborah Zabarenko,
editing by Cynthia Osterman)