Pro-life and conservative leaders reacted critically to the Senate’s Saturday decision to proceed on a Senate bill they say would provide government funding for elective abortion, create a new tax penalty on married couples and fail to protect the consciences of health care providers.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins charged that the vote disregards the consciences of the majority of Americans and would create "the largest expansion of abortions since the 1970s."
"Forcing Americans to buy government approved health care insurance is arguably unconstitutional. Forcing Americans to fund abortion within the government plan is without question unconscionable," Perkins said in a statement.
He expressed disappointment that pro-life Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) voted to advance the bill.
Perkins said the Senate should have included the "bipartisan" Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed in the U.S. House. Instead, he charged, it includes a "watered down version" of the Capps Amendment which would fund the abortion industry.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women of America, said that several Senators have "tried to have it both ways."
"They say they oppose the bill yet at the most crucial time when only one Democrat senator could have changed or killed the bill, they supported it," Wright said.
She contrasted the vote on the Senate bill with a vote last year on an amendment to ensure that federal funds did not pay for abortions through the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. Eight Democratic Senators, including Nelson and Casey, voted for that provision.
"Harry Reid's bill will impose a new tax penalty on married couples who jointly make $250,000 annually. People who 'shack up' can earn up to $200,000 each before being taxed," Wright charged.
She claimed that the Senate bill could fine those with "unacceptable" health insurance, cause five million to lose employer-covered health insurance, cut Medicare by over $460 million and leave 24 million without insurance.
Also critical was Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who said the failure of pro-life Democrats in the Senate was "gravely disappointing."
"Senators should consider themselves on notice: America is still waiting for you to strike government funded abortion from this legislation," she added.
Dannenfelser said Sens. Casey, Nelson, Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) will be held "especially accountable."
"Their first opportunity to defend Life was on the motion to proceed. Their last chance will be on the final cloture vote to end debate. A vote to close debate without the addition of strong pro-life language will be a vote for government-funded abortion," she said, calling the last the "ultimate betrayal" of pro-life constituents and others who oppose government-funded abortion.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life Action described the Senate bill as providing for an "unprecedented" expansion of federally funded abortion. She charged that the legislation moves towards redefining abortion as health care, fails to protect the consciences of medical providers and fails to prohibit federal funding of assisted suicide.
She praised the House health care bill’s restrictions on abortion funding as a demonstration of a "bipartisan pro-life majority."
Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director of the Right to Life Committee, said the Senate bill would authorize the federal government to pay for "any and all abortions" through the proposed "public option" plan and also to subsidize the purchase of private plans that cover abortion on demand.
He charged that President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid know abortion-promoting policies are "deeply unpopular" and try to conceal them with "contorted definitions and money-laundering schemes."
Johnson recalled that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed in the U.S. House by 240-194. He said that a "courageous group of pro-life Democrats" in the House will oppose final approval of health care legislation if that Amendment is "gutted or removed."