The U.S. Senate voted this afternoon to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment that would have prohibited the federal funding of abortions in the government's reformed health care system.
At around 5:30 p.m. EST, the Senate held a roll call vote on tabling the abortion amendment, which would maintain the 30-year-old Hyde Amendment ban on federal funds paying for abortions. With 51 votes needed to kill the amendment, the attempt succeeded 54 votes to 45.
“As written, the Senate Heath care bill allows taxpayer dollars, directly and indirectly to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on his website Monday. Most Americans, he continued, “do not favor using public funds to cover abortion and as a result this bill shouldn't open the door to do so.”
Sen. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat, filed his amendment in the Senate on Monday, announcing, “The amendment we offer today mirrors the Stupak language added to the House Health care bill,” Nelson said. “For more than 30 years, taxpayers' money hasn't been used for abortions, a standard that has the broad support of American people.”
Nelson's amendment received the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while opponents claimed that it would decrease access to abortion.
On Dec. 2, Jake Thompson, spokesman for Sen. Nelson told CNA that the amendment is “going to seek to accomplish the goal that the Stupak amendment does, to ensure that federal funding dollars cannot be used for abortion.”
Thompson also confirmed that Sen. Nelson will not vote for the Senate health care bill unless it has such an amendment. Fox News also reported that the senator has pledged to vote with Republicans to filibuster the legislation should it fail to include it.
Reacting to today's vote, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a Tuesday evening teleconference that he is “very disappointed in the Senate's vote today; not even wanting even to vote up or down on this measure.”
Perkins also questioned the motivations of the House and Senate lawmakers. “I think it's become very evident through this process ... this is more about abortion and Planned Parenthood than it is about Americans and their physical well being,” the FRC president said.
In particular, Perkins singled out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), stating, “For Senator Reid to potentially jeopardize health care in order to protect an expansion of abortion through taxpayer dollars is unconscionable. And for him to stand on the floor and say that he's about life when he's voting to accelerate the extermination of the unborn is beyond the pale.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser also criticized Sen. Reid, stating, “Tonight Senator Reid invoked Henry Clay, posing as a great compromiser even as he denied the consciences of the majority of Americans. Yet Clay himself would have never blanched at Nelson’s amendment, a commonsense proposal backed by 61% of America. You can’t find greater common ground than the decision to restrict government funding for abortion on-demand. With his actions tonight, Harry Reid has effectively tabled the common ground.”