Washington (CNN) - Abortion rights opponents made clear Thursday that they are adamantly against language regarding coverage for reproductive services in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's health care bill.
"Senator Reid's bill provides for an unprecedented expansion of federally funded abortion," said Charmaine Yoest, head of the group Americans United for Life. "The majority of Americans who oppose federal funding of abortion will not stand for policies that force them into paying for abortions under the guise of health care reform."
The Senate plan would allow abortion coverage through privately funded premiums in both a government-run public insurance option and private plans purchased with the assistance of government subsidies.
The more conservative House of Representatives plan, in contrast, would bar abortion coverage under both the public option and private policies purchased with government subsidies. House Democratic leaders opposed the measure, but added it to win critical support from anti-abortion members.
Both plans would allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
Abortion opponents have rallied around the House language. Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, co-author of the language adopted by the House, claimed Thursday that the Senate measure would "mandate abortion coverage for the first time in history."
GOP Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska said the abortion language in the Senate bill "satisfies no one." He also said a Senate vote on whether to open floor debate on the bill - now slated for Saturday - will be a "key vote for the pro-life community."
The leaders of the 40-member Republican Senate caucus have vowed to try to block the bill, requiring Reid to round up 60 votes in the 100 member chamber to overcome a filibuster and launch debate.
"We don't need 40 Democrats to stand up," Johanns said. "We just need one."
Democratic leaders have been walking a political tightrope on the abortion issue in recent weeks. Abortion opponents warn they have the votes to oppose a bill if necessary; abortion rights supporters were infuriated by what they saw as a sellout of core Democratic Party principles in the House.
"Health care reform must not be misused as an opportunity to restrict women's access to reproductive health services," 90 House Democrats opposed to the amended abortion language wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama last week.
In an example of the complicated politics of the issue, all but one of the House Democrats who signed the letter had voted to pass the overall health care bill even though it contained the amendment they opposed.
Their strategy now is to work with Obama and Senate Democrats to prevent inclusion of the language of the House amendment in a final health care bill.