U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said Wednesday that she is still deciding whether to support the current health-care legislation and believes that its provisions for restricting federal dollars from being used for abortions should be tightened.
"I feel there's more work to be done," she said in a phone interview. "What I'm working for is to maintain the restrictions in existing law."
The law Miss Kaptur referred to is the Hyde Amendment, a provision that since 1976 has applied to money allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The amendment mostly affects Medicaid services and prohibits taxpayer money from being used for abortions, except to save a mother's life or in cases of rape or incest.
Hyde-like provisions were added to the health-care bill approved last year by the House and that Miss Kaptur voted for. However, the Senate version of health-care legislation - now before the House - offers different restrictions regarding abortions that Miss Kaptur is apparently uncomfortable with.
The Senate bill allows federal subsidies to be used in purchasing insurance plans that would broadly cover abortions. But those covered by such plans would have to write two checks: one for their premium, the other specifically for abortion coverage.
Anti-abortion groups have expressed other reservations with the Senate version of the legislation, including its lack of restrictions regarding taxpayer money being used for abortions performed by the many community health centers across the nation.
Anti-abortion groups also have criticized the bill's lack of protection for health-care workers who choose not to participate in abortions.
Despite those perceived shortcomings, U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D., Mich.), also an abortion opponent, announced yesterday that he is now satisfied with the abortion provisions in the Senate bill.
Miss Kaptur, who is Catholic, said that abortion is just "one issue of several" important to her in the health-care reform effort, adding that she would have liked to see a "public option" in the Senate bill like there was in the earlier House bill.
Abortion, she said, "should not be the issue that predominates in any health insurance debate." Yet when it comes to the abortion issue, "what I'm working for is to stay as close to existing law and practice as possible," she said.