Senate Prepares To Vote on Abortion Amendment as Part of Reform Bill
Today, the Senate is expected to vote on an amendment to its health care reform bill (HR 3590) that would prohibit people who receive federal subsidies from purchasing insurance plans that cover abortion services, even with their own money, the Washington Post reports.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) introduced the amendment on Monday.
It also would ban abortion coverage under the proposed public plan option, although that issue could be moot if the option is dropped under a compromise that would expand Medicaid and Medicare in its place, according to the Post (Murray, Washington Post, 12/8).
Currently, the Senate health reform bill would allow federally subsidized insurance plans to cover abortion services, but they would be required to segregate the federal funds from private money that could be used to pay for the services (Adamy/Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 12/8).
Both sides of the debate say Nelson's amendment is not likely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass, although antiabortion-rights groups say they will continue to push for similar language as a condition for supporting the final health reform bill.
Nelson said that senators are "going to keep talking" to reach an agreement on the issue (Wall Street Journal, 12/8).
The amendment is co-sponsored by several GOP senators and Democratic Sen. Robert Casey (Pa.), although Casey has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he would not filibuster the bill if the amendment is not included.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), one of the co-sponsors, said he does not expect it to pass despite strong Republican support (The Hill, 12/7).
Abortion-rights supporters in the Senate have criticized the language as too restrictive and discriminatory toward women.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the amendment "would be the biggest rollback to a woman's right to choose in decades," adding, "The men who have brought us this don't single out a procedure that's used by a man or a drug that is used by a man that involves his reproductive health" (Perine, CQ Today, 12/7).
According to CQ Today, Nelson has said he would support a filibuster if the current abortion coverage language remains (Perine, CQ Today, 12/7).
If Nelson withdraws his support, Reid could be short of the 60 votes needed to move the bill on to conference committee, where the issue of abortion coverage is almost certain to come up again (Washington Post, 12/8).
Congressional Democrats who support abortion rights have said they would work to remove the Stupak amendment from the House bill, and more than 40 have said they would vote against legislation that includes such language, the Washington Times reports (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 12/8).
Stupak said he thinks Nelson's version of his amendment "will be a tight vote," adding, "I don't think we will prevail in the Senate."Stupak said his vote on a final health reform bill will depend on what abortion restrictions remain in the legislation after it emerges from conference committee (Spangler, Detroit Free Press, 12/7). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.