Fight against abortion funding in Senate health bill is ‘far from over,’ pro-life leader says

Fight against abortion funding in Senate health bill is ‘far from over,’ pro-life leader says

Richard Doerflinger
Richard Doerflinger


Responding to the defeat of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment to the Senate health care bill, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat has voiced gratitude towards supporters of the restrictions on abortion funding. Noting “strong support” in the U.S. House, he said more changes are still possible in the Senate.

“The fight is far from over,” Doerflinger commented in a Dec. 9 message.

Doerflinger, the executive director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, gave a word of gratitude and encouragement to all those who worked to “maintain current protections against abortion funding.”

“We made a very good showing against overwhelming odds, and we continue to have strong support for our position in the House where the legislation must ultimately return.”

Analyzing the Senate’s action, he said that pro-lifers’ opponents probably began with a “bare Senate majority” against the Hyde Amendment. These opponents followed a strategy of “constantly and passionately obfuscating the truth” that the Nelson Amendment is “basically the same as the Hyde Amendment.”

“This gave us the spectacle of one pro-abortion Senator after another saying with a straight face that he or she supports the longstanding restrictions of the Hyde amendment, while voting against that policy in real life.”

“We must step up our efforts to educate the Congress, the media and the general public as to what is really going on in this debate,” Doerflinger urged.

He said that supporters of the language of the Nelson Amendment hoped to get more than 40 votes, to compensate for the opposition of Republican Sens. Collins and Snow.

“We surprised them in a number of ways,” he said, noting support from the Democratic co-sponsors of the Nelson Amendment and from the five unexpected votes which included Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware.

Sen. Kaufman, a former top aide to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, had never cast a pro-life vote.

“Our Senate allies were prepared, articulate, committed, and factual, rebutting every false claim our opponents made,” he added.

The 45 votes for the Nelson Amendment mean that if the Senate had followed normal procedure they could never have produced the 60 votes needed for an amendment to remove the House’s Stupak Amendment.

This fact is good preparation for the future, which Doerflinger said may involve a “ping-pong match” between the House and the Senate.

Doerflinger also noted more changes up for consideration in the Senate, including a “manager’s amendment” that may or may not include some provisions to address pro-lifers’ “strong objections” to the current bill.

“We won't give up until we have a reform of health care that truly respects the life of everyone,” his message concluded. “Thank you again for your wonderful efforts!”

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