According to the New York Times, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is pro-choice herself, has "tried mightily – and ultimately failed – to bridge a bitter intra-party disagreement over the issue of health insurance coverage for abortions."
Worried about the passage of the health care bill and unable to pull the party together over the abortion issue, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders decided to allow a vote on an amendment introduced by anti-choice Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan that would, according to Congressional sources who spoke to The Washington Post, "prohibit a new government-run insurance plan created by the health-care bill from offering to cover abortion services. It also would block people who received federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance from buying policies that offered coverage for abortions," if passed.
Democratic leaders hope that the move will help them being anti-choice Democrats and Republicans (Republican Rep. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania is also a sponsor of Stupak's amendment) on board so that they can ultimately pass the health care bill itself, but the move is not a popular one with many pro-choice Democrats, including Rep. Diana Degette of Colorado, who tells the Wall Street Journal: "If you say the public option cannot be used for a medical procedure, you are greatly restricting a choice compared to current law. That is not acceptable to me."
House Holds Rules Debate On Health-Care Legislation [WashingtonPost]
Abortion Fight Erupts In Health Care Debate [NYTimes]
House Starts Debate On Health Bill [WSJ]