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“Ohioans were misled by the Obama administration about the cost of the president’s health care legislation, and they cannot be misled again when it comes to this unconscionable use of taxpayer dollars,” the lawmakers wrote.

But Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, a leading anti-abortion advocate among House Democrats, accused Republicans of shamefully using the situation as an excuse to spread “misinformation” about the administration’s position.

Mr. Stupak added that the HHS statement should ease fears that the health care law would open a flood of federal funding for abortion.

“The president’s executive order makes clear that federal funds may not be used for abortion under the Affordable Care Act - including the pre-existing condition insurance pools currently being implemented in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and other states across the country,” he said.

The administration’s action also stirred anger with abortion rights activists, who say the new rules go too far.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights group, called the Obama administration’s exclusion of abortion coverage from newly created high-risk pools “wrongheaded and inexplicable.”

“At a time when the country is on the cusp of implementing nationwide health-insurance coverage, it is unacceptable to treat abortion care differently in the new high-risk pools,” she said.

Even if crucial midterm elections weren’t looming in 3 1/2 months, the administration was smart to immediately respond to concerns that states might use federal dollars for abortions, some political analysts say.

“You don’t want to have a pledge that you made very visibly being reneged upon,” said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank. “And if it’s being done by others, you want to put the kibosh on it as quickly as you can. So I wouldn’t put it entirely through the prism of an election.”

Mr. Ornstein added, however, that in an election cycle dominated by the sluggish economy and high unemployment, abortion will have little impact when voters go to the polls in November.

“This is not going to be the factor that determines these elections, even at the margins,” he said. What will “is a combination of the pessimism that people are feeling about the state of the world.”

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.