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Langevin: Don't Let Abortion Sidetrack Health Care

Congressman Jim Langevin, a pro-life Democrat, is among a group of five Congressmen - with mixed views on abortion - who sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday voicing concern that the abortion debate could scuttle health care reform.

Republicans, eager to derail the Democratic-led health care push, have suggested the reform package inching its way through Congress could lead to federal funding of abortion through private insurers which participate in proposed insurance exchanges.

At present, the law bans federal funding of abortion under Medicaid, with an exception for women whose lives may be in danger. Langevin et. al propose the following compromise:

...we believe that a common ground solution is to include language in the final legislation that makes clear that no insurance company will be required to pay for an abortion except in extraordinary circumstances - nor will they be prohibited from paying for an abortion, so long as health insurance plans offered in the exchange that choose to provide abortion coverage pay for those services with funds that are separate and distinct from any federal subsidies.

The compromise would, essentially, maintain the status quo in the private insurance market, the Congressmen write, where carriers can choose whether to cover abortions and individuals can pick plans that suit their needs and values, without any federal funding for abortion.

Of course, Democrats may have bigger problems when it comes to health care. Declining approval numbers for the president's handling of the issue and increasing concerns about cost are giving moderate and conservative Dems pause. But defusing any abortion controversy makes sense. And it's good politics for Congressman Langevin.

Abortion will probably be a significant issue in state Rep. Elizabeth Dennigan's reported primary challenge to Langevin. And this sort of practical approach to the divisive issue can only help the Congressman in his bid to win re-election in an overwhelmingly pro-choice state.

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