President Barack Obama's health care bill would change federal policy on abortion, but not open the spigot of taxpayer dollars that some abortion opponents fear.
Major anti-abortion groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee say the Senate provisions expected to come before the House shortly are a backdoor taxpayer subsidy for abortion. Other abortion opponents disagree.
The bitter dispute could derail Obama's quest to remake the health insurance system after a yearlong campaign. It is vexing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she and other Democratic leaders try to find enough votes to pass Obama's domestic initiative.
"I actually think the Senate bill will more effectively prohibit federal funds from going to abortion," said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America in Washington. "That legislation will actually reduce the demand for abortion in the United States."
Abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America oppose the limits on abortion contained in the House and Senate versions of the health care bill, yet their efforts to defeat the legislation has been minimal.