By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 10, 2009 ( – In an interview with ABC News' Jake Tapper that aired Monday night, President Obama said that “there needs to be some more work” on the health care bill's handling of abortion, and indicated that he was against the pro-life amendment's abortion funding restriction.

Asked whether he felt the Stupak amendment went “too far,” Obama responded: “You know, I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.”

However, Obama balanced maintaining the ban on federal abortion funding against “not restricting women's insurance choices.”

“So, you know, this is going to be a complex set of negotiations,” he said.

The pro-life amendment introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak and accepted into the the health bill Saturday night retains Hyde amendment restrictions by ensuring that no government-appropriated funds go to abortion.  This means that any public option would not cover abortion, and women who receive taxpayer subsidies to buy health insurance would have to buy abortion coverage separately, in what is known as an insurance “rider.”

Many pro-abortion leaders objected fiercely to the amendment, claiming that it would in fact threaten women's current abortion coverage.  Tapper asked Mr. Obama whether he thought the amendment actually maintains the status quo, or leans “a little bit in one direction or the other.”

Obama deflected the question, answering, “I think that there are strong feelings on both sides.”

“What that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo. And that's the goal,” he continued. 

National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) legislative director Douglas Johnson took issue with Obama's claim that his plan was principally not an “abortion bill”: Johnson recalled the 2007 assurance President Obama gave Planned Parenthood that abortion would be “at the center and at the heart of the [health care] plan that I propose.”  

“The only thing that will prevent the health care bill from being 'an abortion bill' is precisely the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, as the House of  Representatives recognized by a 46-vote margin,” stated Johnson.  “The phoniness of Obama's claim that he has been trying to preserve the 'status quo' on abortion policy should be evident to any observer by now. 

“In reality, the White House and top Democratic congressional leaders have been working hard to create a national federal government health plan that would fund abortion on demand, just as Obama promised Planned Parenthood.”

In addition, the fact-checking Web Site found that the claims of a direct reduction in abortion coverage, which Obama referred to in tempering his dedication to the Hyde amendment, were in large part unfounded. 

PolitiFact concluded that pro-abortion Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) mischaracterized the Stupak amendment's power when stating that it “puts new restrictions on women's access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market even when they would pay premiums with their own money.”  The group pointed to the amendment's possible impact on insurance companies' business strategy as the main source of any perceived threat to coverage, rather than a direct infringement on current health insurance.

See video of the interview