Obama: 'This is a Health Care Bill, Not an Abortion Bill'

ABC News' Jake Tapper sits down with the president for an exclusive interview.

ByABC News
November 9, 2009, 10:34 AM

Nov. 9, 2009— -- President Obama said today that Congress needs to change abortion-related language in the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives this weekend.

"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions."

Saying the bill cannot change the status quo regarding the ban on federally funded abortions, the president said, "There are strong feelings on both sides" about an amendment passed Saturday and added to the legislation, "and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."

After a contentious debate, the House passed a health care bill Saturday that includes a provision banning abortion from being covered in the public insurance option contained in the bill. The bill also prevents women receiving insurance subsidies from purchasing private plans that cover abortion. Liberals in the House Democratic caucus were opposed to these provisions but voted for the overall bill.

In an exclusive television interview in the Map Room of the White House, Obama told ABC News' Jake Tapper that he was confident that the final legislation will ensure that "neither side feels that it's being betrayed."

"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices," he said.

Watch more of President Obama's interview with Jake Tapper tonight on "World News" and "Nightline" and tomorrow on "Good Morning America."

The president was also asked about concerns that the Medicare cuts he proposes to help pay for health care reform would be undone by Congress subsequently, as is often the case with deficit and cost cutting measures.

"Are you willing to pledge that whatever cuts in Medicare are being made to fund health insurance, one third of it, that you will veto anything that tries to undo that?" Tapper asked.

"Yes," the president said. "I actually have said that it is important for us to make sure this thing is deficit neutral, without tricks."

Obama told ABC News there is still more work to be done before a final health care bill reaches his desk for a signature.

"I think everybody understands that there's going to be work to be done on the Senate side," he said. "It's not going to match up perfectly with the House side."