Abortion amendment to Senate health care bill will have Stupak language, senator’s spokesman confirms

Abortion amendment to Senate health care bill will have Stupak language, senator’s spokesman confirms

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)


A bipartisan group of senators opposed to taxpayer funding for abortion is preparing an amendment to the Senate health care bill which uses the language of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, a senator’s spokesman has confirmed to CNA.

The Stupak Amendment, sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.), restricted abortion funding in the House version of the health care bill.

The group supporting a Senate version of the amendment includes Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

On Wednesday afternoon CNA spoke with Sen. Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson about the proposed amendment.

“It will be Stupak language,” Thompson told CNA by phone.

Asked to clarify his description of the bill as “Stupak-like,” Thompson explained that the difference between the House and Senate versions will be that the latter conforms to Senate rules.

Sen. Nelson will not “water down” the amendment, his spokesman stated.

“It’s going to seek to accomplish the goal that the Stupak Amendment does, to ensure that federal funding dollars cannot be used for abortion.”

Thompson said that Sen. Nelson will introduce the amendment as early as Wednesday and is seeking co-sponsors on the proposal.

He also confirmed that Sen. Nelson will not vote for the health care bill or for cloture on the debate unless it has such an amendment.

“There has to be Stupak-like language,” Thompson explained.

Sen. Hatch has also backed the proposed amendment.

"We're not talking about doing away with abortion. We're talking about refusing to have federal funds pay for it," Sen. Hatch said, according to Fox News.

The senator said it may be difficult to get the 60 votes needed to pass the amendment.

Sen. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat, had voted for the first cloture motion on Nov. 21, thus allowing debate on the bill to proceed. In a statement issued the same day, he said that his vote only began debate and was “an opportunity to make improvements.”

“If you don't like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?” he commented.

In the same statement he also said he would oppose the second cloture motion if the parts of the health care bill he opposed were not changed.

The House bill’s inclusion of the Stupak Amendment has triggered intense opposition from pro-abortion groups. According to Fox News, one group, the Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak, plans to hold a rally on Wednesday against the Stupak language.

Kristin Day, President of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), on Wednesday told CNA she had not yet seen the proposed amendment but assumed it was “quite similar” to the Stupak Amendment.

Day said she was unsure of its prospects in the Senate, but noted a similar amendment to Indian Health Service legislation has passed.

She reported that there have been some changes in Senate membership, adding that the proposed amendment is “going to be a close vote.”

“For the overall chances of the health care bill passing and getting to President Obama’s desk, I think it’s important to pass this amendment,” Day continued.

The amendment would be important for the smooth progress of the Senate-House conference which will reconcile both bodies’ health care reform bills, she explained.

“We’re going to be very interested in what the language looks like and in working hard to pass it,” Day told CNA.