Specter of Executive Order on Abortion Raises Alarm Bells, Center Calls on Obama White House and House Leadership Not to Weaken Reproductive Rights

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News reports today confirm that an executive order on abortion funding is being developed in an attempt to assuage anti-choice members of the House of Representatives and to secure their votes in the down-to-the-wire battle over passage of healthcare reform. The text of the proposed executive order has not been publicly disclosed.  Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights has this response: 
 
“Leaders in the House courageously held the line on abortion this week, assuring that efforts by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) to secure a side deal forcing a vote in the House on his amendment or adding it to the healthcare reform bill would remain unsuccessful.  It is therefore extremely worrisome that news reports today indicate that a side deal in a different form – that of an executive order – is now in the works.
 
“Any such agreement would lend additional credibility to the current state of federal policy, which punishes poor women by withholding funding under Medicaid and numerous other federal programs for abortion, a common procedure needed for reproductive health as well as a constitutional right.
 
“We would remind negotiators that the current state of the law is merely a function of language enacted by Congress in annual appropriations bills, and has changed many times over past years in its scope.  It would be a shame to affix this impermanent state of affairs in administrative policy by means of an executive order or any other vehicle.
 
“Moreover, we are concerned about the content of such an order.  The clearly stated goal of Rep. Stupak and his supporters has been to ensure that anti-choice principles reach far beyond the use of federal dollars and create new restrictions for the private insurance marketplace created by the exchanges – including severe and unwarranted limitations on insurance coverage purchased with private dollars.  Any executive order must not further this effort to roll back choice for the millions of American women who will seek coverage in the exchange, and whose insurance plans currently provide coverage for abortion.  
 
“We remain deeply troubled by the burdensome and stigmatizing restrictions in the Nelson amendment that are included in the Senate-passed version of healthcare reform.  Many of these provisions appear, practically speaking, unworkable and needlessly punitive.  Any executive order issued in the heat of legislative negotiations should not compound these problems by tying the hands of the executive branch agencies before they can work to resolve the uncertainties and obstacles this bill will create.“