From NBC's Betsy Cline
In their respective weekly briefings, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner touched briefly on the abortion controversy stemming from the Democrats' health care proposal.
Pelosi said she wouldn't have a debate about abortion, because "this is not about abortion, this is a bill about providing quality health care for all Americans." According to Pelosi, if everyone agrees that "there is no federally funded abortion, ... there is no change to the access to abortion," then there is a health care bill, Democrats can and will pass it.
When asked about reports of Democratic defections over the abortion controversy, including Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak's line in the sand on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthew yesterday, Pelosi said, "When people think there isn't going to be a bill, they can take whatever position they want," but now, "these members are saying, 'Let's talk'."
Boehner told reporters that under the Democrats' health care proposal, many Americans will pay a monthly fee to fund "elective abortions."
"Under the Senate bill, everyone who buys a health insurance policy at these so-called exchanges will pay a monthly abortion fee," he claimed. "That goes in a fund to pay for elective abortions. Some say a dollar-per-month isn't a tax, but you try to explain that to the American people."
*** UPDATE *** The First Read team searched the independent fact-checkers on Boehner's claim of a fee. Here's what a Politifact post from November says:
"But does the bill language dictate an abortion fee as Boehner says?
Usha Ranji, a policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation, says no.
" 'I don't understand what [Boehner's] reference is to,' she said. The provision simply 'outlines some technical direction of how you would establish cost of an abortion benefit.'
"Lara Cartwright-Smith of George Washington University's public health school concurred, adding that everyone participating in the exchange would have the option of choosing a plan that does not include abortion. So, back to Boehner's claim. The bill does not require a fee, or a charge above and beyond the premium cost specifically to cover abortions. And technically speaking, we don't know whether the public option will offer abortion coverage or not. Instead, it gives the Health and Human Services secretary a minimum for estimating the cost of covering abortions. So we give Boehner a False."