By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 16, 2009 ( – In a CNN interview Sunday, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod indicated that President Obama is working with lawmakers to remove the pro-life Stupak amendment from the health care bill.

The Stupak amendment, which was unexpectedly allowed to come up for a vote in the House and then voted into the health bill earlier this month, applies to the bill long-standing federal policy against using government funds for elective abortions.

Axelrod expressed President Obama's antipathy towards the amendment, which Axelrod claimed changes the “status quo” on abortion insurance coverage, in an appearance on CNN's “State of the Union.”

“The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn't believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion,” said Axelrod. “This shouldn't be a debate about abortion. And he's going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed … I believe that there are discussions ongoing to how to adjust it accordingly.”

Axelrod said the president believes that issue “can and will be worked through before it reaches his desk,” though he did not say whether Obama would veto the bill.  “The bill that Congress passed does change the status quo,” he said.  “There are discussions ongoing about how to adjust it accordingly.”

Axelrod's statement mirrors the argument proposed by leaders of the abortion lobby, who say that the Stupak amendment amounts to an encroachment on abortion insurance because it would mean that women who receive federal insurance subsidies would be forced to buy abortion insurance separately and with private funds. In this sense they claim that the Stupak amendment goes beyond the Hyde amendment, which has traditionally prevented federal funds from paying for abortion.

However, pro-life commentators have pointed out that it is, in fact, only inasmuch as the Stupak amendment keeps the status quo on federal abortion funding that it puts abortion coverage in this situation. The original version of the bill had omitted the abortion funding ban, thereby allowing abortion to participate in the federally-funded scheme like any other procedure.

At the same time some pro-abortion groups have gone even further, claiming that women would not be able to purchase abortion coverage with private funds under the Stupak amendment. That claim, however, was deemed false in an article by the non-partisan fact-checking Web site last week.

Following a recent statement made by President Obama, in which the President suggested that the Stupak amendment changed the status quo on abortion, National Right to Life issued a statement saying, “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.”

The Senate is expected to begin debate on the health care reform bill as early as this week.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who also appeared on Sunday's “State of the Union,” gave a hint at the abortion funding wrangling yet to come by affirming that the bill must exclude “taxpayer funding for abortion” to pass the Senate.

“What is clear is that for this bill to be successful, there can be no taxpayer funding for abortion,” said Conrad, though he was not clear on whether the Senate would seek to include language as strong as the House's Stupak amendment. 

An earlier version of the House bill technically barred “public funds” from going to the abortion procedure, but allowed government-appropriated monies to fund abortion in the public option, and allowed federal subsidies to go to plans that cover abortions.  The USCCB and other pro-life leaders rejected that language as a false compromise.

See related coverage:

Going to Extremes: Pro-Aborts Argue Pro-Life Health Amendment “Paves the Way to Religious Discrimination” 

Pro-Abortion Lawmakers Demand Meeting with Obama over Health Bill 

Obama: Health Bill's Handling of Abortion Needs “More Work”