Senator Nelson rejects Casey's proposed abortion compromise

Sen. Bob Casey / Sen. Ben Nelson
Sen. Bob Casey / Sen. Ben Nelson


As Senate Democrats attempt to reach a compromise with Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on the health care bill, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) has sent him a proposal in an attempt to assuage his concerns that the current bill allows taxpayer funds to be used to pay for abortions. Sen. Nelson has responded that the proposal “isn't sufficient.”

In a statement released today, Nelson said that although the compromise from Sen. Casey “adds important new initiatives addressing teen pregnancy and tax credits to help with adoptions ... as it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient.” These concerns were relayed to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the statement added.

Senator Nelson further explained that the compromise “does not yet ensure that a longstanding federal standard barring public funding of abortion would be maintained in the Senate health care bill the Senate has been debating this month.”

“This is not an issue where you can split the difference. That’s what makes it so challenging,” Nelson told KLIN radio.

Casey's proposed compromise language is an attempt to garner the needed votes in the Senate to pass the health care bill.

Sen. Nelson reiterated that he will not support a vote for cloture, which would end debate on the Senate health care bill, as long as “certain language” remains in it.

Besides encouraging adoption and supporting pregnant mothers, pro-life groups briefed on the proposal told the Associated Press that one provision would allow citizens to prevent their premiums from paying for abortion.

However, it is unclear what Casey's compromise says exactly. “It (the proposed compromise) does not address what the fight has been about,” Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) told CNA.

Noting that Casey's office has not released the language of the proposed compromise to the NRLC or anyone else,  Johnson said, “Senator Casey is trying to wrap up a deal on language without actually showing actual bill language to us or to other interested citizen groups.”   

The obscure language is part of a “stealth-legislation project on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is writing a massive manager's amendment—an extensive rewrite to the entire health care bill—behind closed doors,” Johnson said.

“If Reid gets his way, the first time the public will see the abortion language –or any of the rest of the manager's amendment—will be when the new package is slapped down on the Senate clerk's desk along with a cloture petition, which means: take it or leave it,” Johnson charged.

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