McCollum opposes amendment adding abortion restrictions to health reform bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota’s 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum expressed “great concern” today in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the last-minute abortion restrictions that were inserted Saturday night in the House-passed health care bill. The Democrat from St. Paul, however, stopped short of issuing an ultimatum on the issue.

“As a member who strongly supports a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive health care, the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to H.R. 3962 is of great concern to me,” she wrote. “This unique opportunity to expand health care insurance to 36 million Americans should not be used to restrict women’s health care choices.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment bars the government-run insurance option and any private insurance plan on the proposed exchange that accepts people using government subsidies from offering abortion coverage.

Opponents have argued, however, that it would likely affect people using their own money because insurance companies would have incentives to remove coverage of the procedure from their plans.

Following passage of the measure, Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Louise Slaughter of New York began circulating a letter denouncing the amendment and promising not to vote for a final bill “that contains language that restricts women’s right to choose any further than current law.”

According to DeGette’s office, the letter currently has more than 40 signatures, which have not yet been made public.

Unlike the DeGette/Slaughter letter, McCollum — who holds a leadership position in the House as senior Democratic whip — did not say that her vote would hinge on abortion coverage issues.

Instead, McCollum reaffirmed her willingness to work with Pelosi and pointed to the conference committee as a possible time to change the Stupak language.

“It is my intention to work to expand health care access to all American and work with you and other members of the Democratic caucus to maintain current law with regard to federal funding of abortions,” McCollum wrote to Pelosi. “I look forward to working with you, Madam Speaker, to ensure a strong health care reform conference report emerges and that access to reproductive health care is not limited for women.”

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