By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, DC, February 25, 2010 ( – After hours of back and forth sparring between Democrats and Republicans over health care reform during Thursday’s public health care summit, the topic of abortion funding was broached by House Minority Leader John Boehner, but dismissed by President Obama.

In his remarks to the president, in which he expressed several concerns about the bill, Boehner noted that his letter urging Obama to include pro-life Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) in the summit had been ignored.  Stupak, the most outspoken defender of a ban on abortion funding among pro-life House Democrats, was co-author of the House amendment last year that barred abortion funding.

"The Stupak-Pitts amendment - which reflects the will of the American people on the issue of federal funding of abortion - is supported by a bipartisan majority in the House, but was excluded from the president's proposal," said Boehner.

"Pro-life Democrats in the House have already pledged to vote against this provision," he said. "Health care reform should be an opportunity to protect human life, not end it." Boehner complained that the abortion funding issue, which has proved a major sticking point in practically every step of the bill's progress, was "not even listed as a topic for discussion at the summit."

President Obama, however, declined to address the abortion topic, and dismissed Boehner's general statements as "just not true."

He also accused Boehner of stalling the “conversation” on the bill by simply rehashing standard “talking points.”

“John, you know,” Obama said to Boehner, “the challenge I have here, and this has happened periodically, is every so often we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that the Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, denied outright that the abortion mandate even exists. 

"The law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion," she said, in an apparent reference to the Hyde amendment, which has historically barred government funding of most abortions. "And there is no public funding of abortion in these bills. And I don't want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said." 

However, the National Right to Life Committee and other analysts have repeatedly asserted that the Hyde amendment, which normally bans public funding of abortion, would not automatically apply to the new stream of funds created by the bill, and that funding for abortion is most definitely in the bill.

"Speaker Pelosi has her own idiosyncratic dictionary, one in which federal agencies can pay for abortion on demand without spending 'public funds' or 'taxpayer funds' for abortion," said NRLC's Douglas Johnson. 

"In ordinary English, however, this is deceptive claptrap. Every version of the health-care bill has contained multiple pro-abortion mandates and federal subsidies for abortion — except for the version that was fixed by adoption of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, over Speaker Pelosi’s objections."

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, reacted to the exchange, saying, "The President’s proposal was a pro-abortion health care plan before today’s meeting and after six hours of political posturing, it’s still a pro-abortion health care plan."

Yoest called it remarkable that Obama refused even to address the abortion issue. "This has been his approach to the abortion issue throughout this debate:  to evade the question or misrepresent the facts to the American people," she said.

"There is a very simple reason for this: Abortion is the bill killer."

Meanwhile, Politico confirmed even before the health care summit concluded that the majority party had already settled on a plan to begin ramming the president's abortion-expanding bill through the Senate without Republican support.

Party strategists cited by the Capitol Hill news service confirmed that initial steps to push the health bill through with reconciliation, a tactic that allows the bill to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate, will likely begin on Monday.

According to one official, the point of the six-hour televised health care summit "is to alter the political atmospherics, and it will take a day or two to sense if it succeeded."

The summit itself unfolded as a heated back-and-forth between the two parties, with President Obama acting as moderator.  John McCain's expressed concerns about the process that has taken place to date on the issue were admonished by the president with the comment, "John, we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over."

Tempers occasionally flared as lawmakers argued over the overhaul's true cost, the "sweetheart deals" embedded in the measure, and the reconciliation process Democrats have been eyeing to ram the bill through without Republican support.

The majority party downplayed the GOP's strong objection to passing health care reform through the reconciliation process, which Senate rules reserve for measures related directly to the federal budget only.   While Republicans complained that nationwide polls show Americans' strong opposition to the tactic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot back: "[the American people] don't want to hear about process. They want to hear about results!"

Not infrequently, conversation disintegrated into calls of foul play across the aisle: President Obama often interjected to critique the conversation, deeming arguments by Republicans "legitimate" or "not legitimate," and scolding the GOP for playing political games.

“Let me just guess, that’s the 2,400 page Democratic bill,” Obama said, referring to a high stack of paper in front of Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA). “These are the kinds of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation.” 

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) characterized Obama's high handed tone as that of "a professor with a petulant group of students."