Senate defeats move to restrict abortion in health care reform
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WASHINGTON -- The Senate this afternoon voted against an amendment to the health care bill that would have restricted abortion coverage.
Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., signed on to the measure -- written by Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah -- but has said he will continue to look for a middle ground on the thorny cultural issue. The Senate voted 54-45 to table, or dispose of, the amendment in a mostly party-line vote.
The amendment mirrored a provision included in the House of Representatives bill barring women who receive federal subsidies from purchasing a health insurance plan on the newly created exchange that covers abortions. Abortion foes have said this is the only way to prevent federal funding for the procedure, as required under federal law.
Mr. Nelson has said that he will not vote for the underlying legislation -- which would expand health coverage to millions while overhauling the insurance system -- unless his position against government-funded abortion is satisfied. Mr. Casey, an anti-abortion Catholic, has maintained that he will vote for the final bill regardless, but he disagrees with the way it handles abortions in its current form.
The bill, melded together by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, mandates that at least one plan on the exchange cover abortions and at least one not offer the coverage. It requires funding for abortions to come from a separate pool that doesn't use taxpayer dollars.
Anti-abortion groups say this amounts to selective accounting and taxpayer funds still are going to abortions. Abortion-rights groups say taking away coverage from the exchange will hinder access to the procedure.
Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., voted against the amendment and gave a floor speech against it last night.
Abortion and the public option -- a government-run insurer -- remain the biggest hurdles to passing the health reform bill, and Democratic leaders are continuing to negotiate potential compromises.
First Published December 8, 2009 5:54 pm