By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
In recent days, Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth has emerged as the key player in the House Democrats' effort to win antiabortion Democrats over to healthcare reform. Those Democrats, including Ellsworth, had opposed earlier versions of the healthcare bill over its abortion provisions.
But Ellsworth, who has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, is still revising an amendment dictating the bill's abortion provisions in time for a House Rules Committee meeting Friday afternoon.
Antiabortion Democrats "are still wanting to talk about what restrictions will be in place on private plans that participate in the health insurance exchange and the mechanisms for ensuring federal funds are not used to provide abortions," before signing onto the plan, says Ellsworth spokeswoman Liz Farrar.
Ellsworth has not publicly released his proposed amendment, but it has already come under attack from both abortion rights and antiabortion groups. Ellsworth has said his goal is to build a higher wall between private premiums, which would be used to fund abortions under the Democratic healthcare plan, and federal funds, which Democrats say they want to prevent from funding abortions.
Many antiabortion groups say the difference between the two is a technicality under a government controlled healthcare plan. They want to bar the public health insurance option and the private plans participating in the exchange from offering abortion coverage.
With the Rules Committee convening tomorrow at 2 p.m. to consider proposed amendments to healthcare bill, Ellsworth's staff is planning on a late night to craft language that brings more antiabortion Democrats on board. Farrar says she doesn't have a count of how many antiabortion Democrats support Ellsworth's amendment but that "most pro-life Democrats are warm to the idea of a pro-life member working though the issue."
Farrar also said that it's unclear whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi would allow a floor vote on Ellsworth's amendment. "But there is probably no one better that can count to 218," she said, referring to the number of House members it takes to reach a majority. "This is an issue that's a deal breaker for many House members, including my boss."