Yesterday, in an interview with Katie Couric, President Obama finally directly addressed the question of abortion financing in the public plan. He reiterated that he doesn't want to "micromanage" on particular benefits. But in a statement that is sure to rile his pro-choice base, Obama referred to a "tradition" of banning federal funding for abortion. That is a reference to the Hyde Amendment, which currently prevents Medicaid coverage of abortions for poor women. And while none of the health reform bills in Congress threaten Hyde, reproductive health advocates have been trying for decades to repeal the ban. By deferring to this "tradition," Obama seems to be signaling that he could support a public plan that excludes abortion coverage.
Here are Obama's words to Couric:
Katie Couric: Do you favor a government option that would cover abortions?
President Obama: What I think is important, at this stage, is not trying to micromanage what benefits are covered. Because I think we're still trying to get a framework. And my main focus is making sure that people have the options of high quality care at the lowest possible price.
As you know, I'm pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.
Update: During campaign season, Obama said he opposed the Hyde Amendment. In a questionnaire on reproductive health issues, a member of Obama's staff wrote:
He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman's decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors.