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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Advocacy groups irate over deal on abortion

WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON - President Obama, who signed an executive order this week reaffirming that no federal funds can be used for abortion, is facing fury from a core part of his constituency: women's advocates.

The White House agreement to sign the executive order to reassure some anti-abortion rights Democrats upset about the health-care legislation has stunned and infuriated many women's groups and abortion rights advocates.

"Women elected him," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "He campaigned as a pro-choice president. We wished he would storm the ramparts for every one of our issues. It really pains me to conclude that on balance this law is not good for women. It's health reform that has been achieved on the backs of women and at the expense of women."

The anger also stems from language in the legislation that allows abortion to be covered by health insurance plans offered on new "exchanges," but requires buyers to make two premium payments - one for most of their coverage and a second, far smaller one, for abortion coverage.

Abortion opponents complain the language did not go far enough to keep federal money from subsidizing abortion.

"The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

But abortion rights groups and health-care analysts predict few plans will cover abortion because the two-payment requirement would be cumbersome for insurers and objectionable to customers.

"We're very disappointed," Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said. "Health-care reform was supposed to expand health-care coverage for women. Now women will be worse off under health-care reform."

Among some women, the disappointment fuels earlier misgivings about Mr. Obama after he defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, ending the nation's chance to elect its first female president.

"I've heard women complain very loudly, 'This would never have happened if Hillary had been president,'•" Ms. O'Neill said.

Immediately after his inauguration, Mr. Obama took a number of steps abortion rights advocates favored, including removing restrictions on funding for international family planning groups that back abortion, allowing the morning-after pill Plan B to be available at military hospitals, and announcing plans to rescind a federal regulation designed to protect health-care workers who do not want to deliver care they find objectionable, including abortion.



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