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Deal on abortion doesn't appease pro-life activists

WASHINGTON - A last-minute compromise that swung a half-dozen anti-abortion Democrats behind President Barack Obama's health care bill - virtually ensuring its passage - failed to placate outside activists and drew derision from Republicans.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), leader of the anti-abortion bloc, said he was satisfied with an executive order issued by Obama affirming prohibitions in current law and in the health legislation against taxpayer money going to abortions.

"Make no doubt about it. There will be no public funds for abortion," Stupak said in announcing the agreement yesterday, ahead of a vote on the landmark health care bill.

The National Right to Life Committee quickly issued a scathing statement disputing Stupak's claim.

"The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing," the group said. "It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill."

The powerful Catholic bishops weren't on board, either. "Without seeing the details of the executive order, our conclusion has been that an executive order cannot override or change the central problems in the statute. Those need a legislative fix," Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops' conference's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said.

The bishops contend that the legislation before the House yesterday allows federal funding of abortion.

The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer funds and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure.

In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and those funds would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money.

Moreover, states would be able to prohibit abortion coverage in plans offered through a new purchasing exchange.

Exceptions would be made in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.

Abortion foes contend that taxpayers still would be paying for abortion because health plans that cover abortion would be getting federal money.