By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Senate attempts to win the vote of staunch pro-life Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) have failed after he rejected a compromise amendment on abortion coverage in health care reform.
The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Nelson, whose amendment banning all funding for abortion from the Senate’s version of health care reform failed to pass, rejected a compromise amendment written by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).
Nelson wants the same restrictions contained in the Bart-Stupak amendment that passed overwhelmingly in the House last month, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. The Casey compromise stops short of those provisions and includes a modest increase in the adoption tax credit, $250 million over 10 years in new funding to help pregnant teens and stronger conscience clause protections for health care providers.
Unfortunatley, the “compromise” leaves abortion funding intact, and only allows pro-lifers to “opt out” of funding abortions.
“As it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient,” Sen. Nelson said in a statement. “This is not an issue where you can split the difference. That’s what makes it so challenging.”
He indicated that while he’s still open to discussion on the matter, his vote has not been won.
Sen. Casey vowed to keep working on the amendment. “We’re trying to get this right,” he told reporters. “I’ve had ideas on the table for a while now, I’m still working through them and we’ll keep talking to anyone who wants to discuss it.”
“We’re trying to get this right,” Casey said. “I’ve had ideas on the table for a while now, I’m still working through them and we’ll keep talking to anyone who wants to discuss it.”
Pro-life groups are also opposed to the amendment and are particularly incensed by the “opt out” clause.
Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, called the provision “offensive.”
“The federal government would treat abortion on demand as if it was really health care, and then allow people to apply for status as conscientious objectors?” she said. “Give me a break.”
Her sentiments are shared by National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson who called the compromise “unacceptable.”
“This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
But even if the abortion coverage is stripped from the bill, Sen. Nelson said he has other concerns about the bill that could still prevent him from voting for it.
“If it’s not at the point where I think it needs to be with the improvements that I’m pushing — and they’ve made a lot of them — then I will not vote for cloture on the motion to end debate,” Nelson told KLIN.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is hoping to vote for cloture on the bill this weekend which will end debate and allow a vote before Christmas, a scenario that looks increasingly unlikely.
(The Associated Press and LifeNews.com contributed to this report)
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