A total of fifteen self-described Catholic Senators voted to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment, which would have significantly restricted abortion funding from the Senate health care bill.
The Amendment failed by a 54-45 vote on Tuesday. It was co-sponsored by Democrats Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania, who were joined by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Senator Nelson is a Methodist, Sen. Hatch is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Sen. Casey is a Catholic.
Besides Sen. Casey, Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware was the only other Catholic Democrat to vote against tabling the Nelson Amendment. Sen. Kaufman replaced Sen. Joseph Biden when he became the Vice-President of the United States.
The Catholic Democratic Senators who voted against the Nelson Amendment were Patrick Leahy of Vermont, John Kerry and Paul Kirk of Massachusetts, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington state, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Mark Begich of Alaska.
Sen. Kirk, appointed to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy, is the great-nephew of Archbishop of Boston William Henry Cardinal O'Connell.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Catholic Republican to vote to table the Nelson Amendment.
In a Dec. 7 statement, Sen. Mikulski argued that the Nelson Amendment went “too far” and claimed the unamended bill is pro-life.
“Making it a debate about abortion is misguided and wrong,” she said.
In her view, the bill’s aims of providing universal access to health care, ending the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and strengthening Medicare are “pro-life principles.”
She claimed that the Nelson Amendment’s allowance of a woman to buy an “abortion rider” to specially cover abortions was “like putting a scarlet ‘A’ on a woman’s forehead.”
“No woman or family will buy such a plan - because no woman expects or intends to have an abortion,” Sen. Mikulski said.
Jason Jones, founder of IAmWholeLife.com, said Sen. Mikulski’s statement showed a “fundamental misunderstanding.”
“There is no social justice when the life of an innocent child is taken by abortion; abortion destroys a whole life and protects no one,” Jones continued. “The greatest threat to human dignity in the United States is the destruction of human life in the womb, not a lack of 'health care reform.”
Jones urged Sen. Mikulski to take a pledge recognizing that all human rights are based on a respect for all human life, “especially at its earliest stages in the womb.”