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Originally published March 21, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Page modified March 22, 2010 at 8:42 AM

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Abortion opponents, supporters not happy

A last-minute compromise that swung a half-dozen anti-abortion Democrats behind President Obama's health-care bill failed to placate activists on either side of the issue.

WASHINGTON — A last-minute compromise that swung a half-dozen anti-abortion Democrats behind President Obama's health-care bill failed to placate activists on either side of the issue.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., leader of the anti-abortion bloc in the House, said he was satisfied with an executive order issued by the president affirming prohibitions in current law and in the health-care legislation against taxpayer money going to abortions.

The National Right to Life Committee quickly issued a scathing statement.

"It changes nothing," the group said. "It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill."

The powerful Catholic bishops weren't on board, either.

"Without seeing the details of the executive order, our conclusion has been that an executive order cannot override or change the central problems in the statute. Those need a legislative fix," Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops conference's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said in an interview.

The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer funds and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage.

No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure.

In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and those funds would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money.

The president's order requires federal officials to develop guidelines to carry out the segregation of private and public funds.

The executive order also sets out a mechanism aiming to ensure that community health centers cannot use federal funds for abortions, another concern for the Stupak group.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., an abortion-rights supporter, said she thinks current law and the language in the health bill go too far but added she doesn't have a problem with the executive order because "it doesn't change anything."

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Republicans cheer on protesters

Hundreds of boisterous protesters gathered Sunday outside the Capitol to voice their opposition to the legislation.

Earlier Sunday, one protester got into the House gallery and shouted: "Kill the bill. The people don't want this."

As the man was yelling and ushers tried to escort him out, several Republicans on the House floor cheered.

Dozens of GOP members walked from the chamber and out onto the balcony to whip up protesters, some waving handwritten signs and leading the crowd in chants of "Kill the Bill."

Still others fired up the demonstrators with campaign-style signs mocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and offering messages such as "Let's Meet 'em at the State Line."

Seattle Times news services

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