This afternoon Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced that he will now vote for cloture on the Senate health care bill and for the bill itself. The move is causing the pro-life community to say that he caved in to pressure from within his party.
Announcing his decision in a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Sen. Nelson remarked, “Change is never easy … but change is what is needed in America today. And that is why I intend to vote for cloture… and vote for health care reform.”
The Nebraska senator also remarked on the issue of abortion, which has been a major point of contention during his negotiations.
“As you know,” the senator said at his press conference, “I have strongly held views on the subject and I have fought hard to prevent tax dollars from being used to subsidize abortions. I believe we have accomplished that goal. I have also fought hard to protect the right of states to regulate the kind of insurance that is offered, and to provide health insurance options in every state that do not provide coverage for abortion.
“I know these limits on abortion are hard for some people to accept, and I respect those who disagree, but I would not have voted for this bill without them.” Senator Nelson stated.
But the new manager's amendment introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Saturday morning was found to be seriously wanting by the pro-life community.
The National Right to Life Committee's legislative director Douglas Johnson described the Reid Amendment as “light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was approved by the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194.
“The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems,” Johnson asserted.
Among the problems cited by Johnson are that the amendment allows the federal government to “subsidize private insurance plans that cover abortion on demand, to oversee multi-state plans that cover elective abortions, and to empower federal officials to mandate that private health plans cover abortions even if they do not accept subsidized enrollees.”
Pro-life organizations were particularly upset that Sen. Nelson appeared to have faltered in his vigilance against “accounting schemes” aimed at funding abortion with taxpayer money.
Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright said, "Senator Ben Nelson appears to have overlooked some realities. The option for states to opt out of abortion coverage is illusory. The federal government will be subsidizing elective abortions, a federal agency will be managing abortion coverage, and individuals (even those in Nebraska) will be paying for abortions through an accounting scheme.”
Wright also pointed out that under current federal law and programs, “federal funds may not be used for any part of a plan that covers elective abortions. The human right not to be forced to be an accomplice to an evil act, in this case the deliberate murder of innocent babies, is a basic decency that the government should not force individuals or entities to violate.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser faulted the Reid Amendment for changing the status quo, in which no citizen is forced to pay for abortions.
“If this bill passes,” Dannenfelser warned, “for the first time, federally funded and managed health care plans will cover elective abortions. Pro-life Americans in Nebraska and other states that choose to 'opt-out' of abortion coverage will still be forced to foot the bill for abortions in California and New York.
"This is not 'compromise' or 'middle ground' - it is a betrayal of conscience for millions of Americans. And it is a betrayal of Senator Nelson's own principles. Abortion is never good for women or their unborn children,” said the SBA List president.