Senate health care bill’s abortion provisions ‘completely unacceptable,’ pro-life leaders say

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid


Pro-life leaders have criticized the regulation of abortion funding in the Senate’s proposed version of health care reform legislation as “completely unacceptable.” A Senate version of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment is necessary to prevent federal funding for abortion, they said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday unveiled a health care plan that claims to extend health coverage to 94 percent of Americans and about 31 million uninsured people at a cost of $848 billion over ten years, Bloomberg reports.

“This legislation is a tremendous step forward,” Reid told reporters at the Capitol last night. “Tonight begins the last leg of this journey.”

According to Bloomberg, the bill has some safeguards to keep federal dollars from funding abortion but not the restrictions adopted in the House bill’s Stupak Amendment. Pro-abortion advocates have threatened to vote against a final bill if it contains the House language and have worked to keep it out of the Senate version.

On Thursday the press office of House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner charged that Sen. Reid’s bill charges a “monthly abortion premium” to all enrollees in the government-run health plan.

Under the Senate legislation, Boehner’s office said, “the Health Benefits Commissioner is to assess the monthly premiums that will be used to pay for elective abortions under the government-run health plan and for those who are given an affordability credit to purchase insurance coverage that includes abortion through the Exchange. The Commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.”

Criticizing the Senate bill, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) Legislative Director Douglas Johnson charged that Sen. Reid has rejected the “bipartisan” Stupak-Pitts Amendment and substituted “completely unacceptable language that would result in coverage of abortion on demand in two big new federal government programs.”

Johnson said in a Wednesday statement that Sen. Reid tries to conceal this “unpopular” fact with “layers of contrived definitions and hollow bookkeeping requirements.”

He quoted Rep. Lois Capps (D-Ca.) who said the Senate’s approach “closely mirrors” her proposed amendment to the House bill.

Capps’ amendment was originally included in the House bill but was replaced with the Stupak-Pitts Amendment by a vote of 240-194, with 64 Democrats approving it.

Johnson explained that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment applies pro-life provisions like those of the Hyde Amendment to the new programs created by the health care legislation. Those provisions forbid both direct funding of abortion procedures and subsidies for plans that cover elective abortions in federal programs like Medicaid, federal employees’ benefits program, and the military health system.

The Senate health care bill, according to Johnson, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require coverage of “any and all abortions” throughout the public option program.

“This would be federal government funding of abortion, no matter how hard they try to disguise it,” he commented, adding that the bill also creates tax-supported subsidies to purchase private health plans that will cover abortion on demand.

Johnson charged that Sen. Reid has sought to please “the militant minority that demands funding of abortion through federal programs.”

The NRLC will continue to advocate for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the Senate, he reported.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, was also critical of the Senate bill’s abortion provisions.

In a Wednesday statement she charged that “lies, scare tactics, and misdirection” were being used to drive Democrats to support “radical feminists.”

“But now senators have a bigger problem – a bill that is out of step with the majority of America,” Dannenfelser added, reporting that Americans reject government funding of abortion.

“On behalf of a majority pro-life America, I urge senators to vote no on the cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Until the pro-life Stupak language is added to the Senate health care bill, the measure must be opposed. Senators Casey, Landrieu, Lincoln, and Nelson must recognize that a vote for cloture is a complete betrayal of their pro-life constituents.

“There is no middle ground, either you fund abortion or you don’t,”
When the Capps Amendment was being considered in the House, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) viewed it as a “phony compromise,” his press secretary said.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), co-sponsor of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, in August said that the Capps Amendment would still allow taxpayer funding for health plans that cover abortion.

“This is a fig leaf, designed to lure votes from Members who want cover on the issue,” he charged. “The American people will not be fooled. We want an explicit exclusion in the bill to prevent any taxpayer funding from paying for abortions. Anything else is wrong, and contrary to overwhelming popular opinion.”

If the Senate passes health care legislation, its differences with the House bill would have to be reconciled.

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