Senate Fails To Prohibit Abortion Funding
Special Report - December 11, 2009
The United States Senate effectively killed an amendment December 8th that would have applied current prohibitions on federal funds paying for abortions to the proposed health care reform bill. The amendment to HR 3590, sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (DNebraska), Bob Casey (DPennsylvania), and Orrin Hatch (RUtah) would have explicitly prohibited government funds from paying for abortions in either the public health insurance option or through affordability credits that Americans may receive to help them purchase private health insurance, except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Senator Barbara Boxer (DCalifornia) moved to “table” the amendment, which required the approval of a simple majority of Senators in order to kill the amendment, as opposed to the supermajority of 60 needed to vote the amendment down outright. The tabling motion passed 5445 with Sen. Richard Burr (RNorth Carolina) opposing and Sen. Kay Hagan (DNorth Carolina) supporting.
The amendment very closely mirrored the Stupak-Pitts amendment which we discussed in mid-November. The intention of both amendments is to ensure that current restrictions on government funding of abortions imposed by the Hyde amendment and several other laws will apply to any new health insurance bill. The current prohibitions apply to Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the military. Pro-lifers remain concerned that federal tax dollars will be used to pay for abortions without explicit prohibitions like those included in the House’s health care reform plan.
Pro-lifers are additionally concerned about a recently passed Senate amendment that could potentially lead to mandatory abortion coverage in all insurance plans. The Mikulski amendment passed 6139 on December 3rd and provides authority to the Health Resource and Services Administration to determine what preventive care for women would be mandatory for coverage. This raises concerns that the Administration could define abortion as preventative care, thereby making it mandatory for insurance companies to cover it. The National Right to Life Committee released a poll November 19 showing that at least 61 percent of Americans opposed the inclusion of abortion coverage in the health care bill, and two-thirds of Americans oppose using federal funds to pay for such coverage.
Concerns also remain over the lack of broad conscience protections for health care workers. Senator Tom Coburn (ROklahoma)a physicianis putting forward an amendment to prohibit discrimination against an individual or institutional health care provider who “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” Similar language was included in section 259 of the bill passed by the House in November.
Also, an amendment proposed by Senator Max Baucus (DMontana) would allot $400 million from 2010 to 2015 to implement “evidence-based effective programs...that have been proven on the basis of rigorous scientific research to change behavior, which means delaying sexual activity, increasing condom or contraceptive use for sexually active youth, or reducing pregnancy among youth.” The programs would include “activities to educate youth who are sexually active regarding responsible sexual behavior.” This provision is especially troubling considering Congress’ decision to cut off funding for Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs in the 2010 budget, as we reported last summer.
The Congressional Budget Office has not yet released a report on the estimated costs of the Senate’s bill. Currently, the bill includes a Medicare buy-in for Americans aged 55-64, which is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association because of Medicare’s low payment rates.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (DNevada) needs 60 votes to pass the bill without being filibustered. The 60-member Democrat caucus continues to discuss and debate the inclusion of a public option, the cost of the overall bill, and an expansion of Medicare. Several Democrat senators have indicated that they would not support a final bill that included a public option, funding for abortion, or that increases the national debt. Other Democrat senators have vowed to withhold their support if the bill does not include a public option, or includes a Hatch-like amendment regarding abortion funding.
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.