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Medicaid covered abortion from 1973 to 1976 until Congress, led by Republican former Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, changed Medicaid rules to prohibit it from doing so. Congress needed to make similar legislative changes after the fact to stop Indian Health Services from providing abortion as well.

“In both of these cases, explicit exclusions had to be added to ensure that taxpayers would not have to continue to pay for abortions,” said Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, at a Tuesday press conference organized to draw attention to the potential prob- lem with Mr. Obama’s plan.

“The issue here is clear: If abortion is not explicitly excluded, it is implicitly included,” he said.

Two bills are currently being moved, one through the Senate and another through the House as a part of the White House’s fast-track strategy for the bill. National Right to Life Director Douglas Johnson said, “The pro-life movement needs to go to Threat-Level-Red status on this,” pointing out that the Senate’s health care committee last week rejected amendments that would strip abortion accommodations from the bill.

But the pro-lifers do have some Democrats on their side. Nineteen House Democrats wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in late June to say, “We cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.”

Among the Democrats signing were Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Bart Stupak of Michigan, and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@