White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Domestic Policy Council director Melody Barnes, health care reform czar Nancy-ann DeParle and other White House officials met with a dozen officials from liberal women's and abortion rights groups this afternoon where they had a "frank exchange," in the words of one attendee.
The subject of the meeting was the amendment added to the House Democrats' health care reform bill Saturday night that bans abortion services from being covered under the government-run public insurance option and prohibits women who receive government subsidies for health insurance from using those funds to buy private plans that cover abortion, offered by Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Penn.
Women's groups have reacted strongly to the amenment, with Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, telling ABC News that the president should not “achieve that goal [of passing health care reform] by pushing women back into the back alleys to die.”
Attendees included representatives from NOW, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY's List, the Feminist Majority, the National Women’s Law Center, the Guttmacher Institute, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Latina Reproductive Health Institute, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.
The White House sought to downplay the meeting, with spokesman Reid Cherlin saying in a statement, "As part of our ongoing outreach surrounding health insurance reform, staff met with today with representatives of the women’s rights community. Staff will also be meeting in coming days with leaders from communities of faith and other groups involved in the effort.”