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The successful effort to strip abortion funding from the House of Representatives' health-care legislation may point the way for pro-life forces waging battle in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Pro-life Democrats and Republicans tried to insert the funding ban in five different committees. Each time, abortion-rights proponents were able to stop them. But a coalition of about 40 pro-life Democrats led by Michigan congressman Bart Stupak insisted they would not support the bill's passage unless a vote was held on an amendment prohibiting government-backed health plans from covering or subsidizing abortions.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi needed their votes for the final bill, so she ultimately permitted the vote. It passed 240–194, with the help of 64 Democrats. The final House version of the bill passed 220–215. The abortion funding ban could still be stripped before legislation is sent to President Barack Obama for signature.

The pro-life members were supported by a broad coalition of groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

With early warning during Obama's presidential campaign that "reproductive services" would be central to his health-care reform goals, the nrlc began educating its members in January, while the USCCB sent out parish bulletin inserts and ran advertisements explaining how constituents could influence the legislation. The groups helped representatives who oppose abortion funding work on legislative language to remove it, and the bishops themselves called House members to discuss the morality of funding abortions.

Perhaps the greatest asset for abortion opponents was ...

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January 2010

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