December 7th, 2009
12:06 PM ET
8 months ago

Senate health care debate to focus on abortion

It is unclear if a Senate vote on Sen. Nelson's amendment regarding abortion would occur Monday.
It is unclear if a Senate vote on Sen. Nelson's amendment regarding abortion would occur Monday.

Washington (CNN)– Senate debate on a sweeping health care bill proceeds to one of the most controversial issues Monday - an amendment to tighten restrictions on federal funding for abortion.

The amendment by moderate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska would mirror language from the health care bill passed by the House last month that prevents any health plan receiving federal subsidies from offering coverage for abortion. It was unclear if a Senate vote on Nelson's amendment would occur Monday.

Anti-abortion legislators say the House language that Nelson seeks to adopt maintains the current level of restriction by preventing any federal funding for abortion, except in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.

Opponents of the tougher language argue that the amended language would expand the current level of restriction because women receiving coverage under a federally subsidized health care plan would be barred from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money.

"You can't use private money in the private market ... and frankly, I think that goes too far," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Monday on the CBS program "The Early Show."

The House adopted the restrictive language as part of a last-minute concession to anti-abortion legislators who threatened to defeat the health care bill without a vote on the provision.

A similar dynamic could exist in the Senate, with anti-abortion Democrats preventing final approval of the health care bill if they don't like the abortion language.

The activity comes a day after President Barack Obama met with Democratic senators amid a rare Sunday session for the Senate as it considers the Democratic proposal that so far is unanimously opposed by Republicans.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama "thanked members of the Senate for their hard work so far and encouraged them to continue forward on this historic opportunity" to pass health care reform legislation.

"The question now is whether or not we're going to get it done," Obama told the senators, according to Burton.

Meanwhile, a group of moderate and liberal Democrats met again Sunday afternoon to try to work out differences over tough issues such as a government-run public health insurance option.

The group, put together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has been meeting regularly to seek Democratic consensus on the public option and other issues threatening the ability of Democrats to overcome a Republican filibuster.

"There are still a few things to work out in the bill," Reid said, adding that "the issues were being narrowed," but "we're not there."

On the Republican side, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Sunday repeated past criticism that the health care bill ignores GOP concerns and issues.

"There was no interest in drafting a proposal that was in the political middle," McConnell said, adding that the Democrats wrote a bill "that Republicans couldn't in good conscience support."

Reid denied the claim, saying Republicans had plenty of opportunity for input in the months of debate and scores of committee hearings so far. The lone goal of Republicans is to defeat the bill to cause political harm to Obama and the Democrats, Reid said.

"Republicans are being destructive," Reid said. "They want this to be, as one senator said, President Obama's 'Waterloo,' and it's not going to be."

The public option is among the most contentious issue for Democrats, with two members of the caucus saying they have yet to see a compromise they can support.

The Democratic caucus contains 60 seats in the 100-member chamber, which is the minimum number needed to overcome a filibuster. If any Democratic caucus members balk at the public option, the party would need some Republicans to back the bill in order for it to pass.

The House has narrowly passed a more than $1 trillion health care plan. If the Senate also manages to pass a bill, a congressional conference committee would then need to merge the House and Senate proposals into a consensus version requiring final approval from each chamber before moving to Obama's desk to be signed into law.


Filed under: Abortion • Health care • Senate
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. chill

    I think it is unfair to prevent someone with using their own money to obtain abortion coverage if they want it. having said that though, I'd not scuttle healthcare over it. If the Stupak ammendment had said Health and safety of the mother, then I would be okay with it. Seems to me that any other reason for an abortion is pretty much elective and need not be covered.

    December 7, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. single mom

    I'm fairly conservative and find myself in a dilemma on this one.
    I don't favor abortion as a form of birth control, but realize that nothing but abstinence is 100% fool-proof. And I know that is unrealistic. At the same time, I am against the government or religion telling me what a woman can or cannot do with her body. I definitely support it in cases of rape, incest, or the mother's life is in danger.

    The Republicans need to back away from this issue. It's hypocrisy to try to ban abortion for all reasons and then turn around and say you want government out of people's lives.
    There really are much bigger issues that need to be dealt with – the economy, troops overseas, illegal immigration, the nation's roads and rail system, etc.

    December 7, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Robin

    So abortion would be covered in the case of rape, incest, and health of mother. (4% of abortions are performed for those reasons, look it up.) I think that sounds more then fair.

    Now, as far as restricting woman from PURCHASING abortion insurance, why would you want to purchase something that you may never use, or only use once? Shouldn't an abortion be the exception, and not the rule? Having a vaccuum suction out a fetus and then scraping your uterus a few times for the remains can't be too good for your body. If you feel an abortion is your only choice, why would you want to do it more then once?

    You don't want children, great. There are wonderful forms of birth control that prevent pregnancy.

    Bill Clinton said it best, "Abortion should be safe, available, and RARE."

    December 7, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. jack

    The religious right thinks that the have found a way to over turn Roe vs. Wade. After 30 years of losing that battle they would hold hostage the health of all Americans to get their way. Abortion is a legal procedure. Third parties should not have any business between a woman and her doctor. The religious right still doesn't understand that. They must force their beliefs on all Americans.

    This country was founded because people left the old world for the new because they wanted freedom of religion. What would have been better would have been freedom FROM religion.

    The founding fathers got one thing right. Separation of church and state. Too bad over the last 200 hundred we simply have forgot this.

    Religion has no place in politics.

    December 7, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. American

    "Opponents of the tougher language argue that the amended language would expand the current level of restriction because women receiving coverage under a federally subsidized health care plan would be barred from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money." Who need to purchase abortion coverage? Try purchasing condoms!

    December 7, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. JPM

    What a joke this is. The arguement isn't over whose money is funding abortions. That is just a smoke screen. This is simply an attempt by conservatives to prevent abortions as much as possible.

    From a funding view, medical expenses for prenatal care and care at the time of birth, will always exceed the cost of an abortion. That being said, abortions REDUCE the cost of medical coverage. You can't argue the issue from a funding angle when the alternative you suggest is many times more expensive.

    December 7, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Those seeking abortions should be required to pay the medical expenses out of pocket.

    Many who use abortion as birth control might find that preventing pregnancy is less expensive than the alternative.

    December 7, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. HAWK IN TEXAS

    Any thing to derail the talks. if you had an amendment that let the insurance companys run the whole show at a fat profit then the republicans might vote for reform, but don't bet on it.

    December 7, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. juge

    Choice is my mantra! My choice NOT yours!

    December 7, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. www.circleparkforum.com

    These failures of leadership need to read the very clearly worded 2008 Democratic Party Platform on this very issue.

    We're joining OneVoiceForChoice at Firedoglake to stop Stupak and to stop "moderate" Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

    Where do you get off calling Sen. Ben Nelson a "moderate" Democrat?

    Please read the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, pages 50-51.

    Stupak and Nelson must be called "the betrayers of core Democratic Party principles" that they are.

    December 7, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. RichP the Pocono's

    Why not focus on the fact that the TAXPAYERS and VOTERS don't want government run health care. Oh, I forgot you have your pork to store away for your retirement.

    December 7, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  12. Caesar the Great

    So with all this Health Care debate, when will we start addressing the real issue. Its called OBESITY!!! I say start taxing the fast food chains. As we keep getting fatter how does anyone think our health costs wont keep going up.

    December 7, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. Jim

    I'm a lifelong Catholic and believe abortion is usually a tragic experience for all involved. Like President Kennedy, I also believe in our constitutional separation of church and state. That means our government cannot dictate how women of any faith should handle this very personal decision.

    Let's remove the abortion funding issue entirely from the health care debate! Health care reform is an urgent need for all Americans and will strengthen our economy and competitiveness. Raising the abortion issue is a Republican "red herring" that simply distracts us from the important business at hand.

    December 7, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Bob of Lompoc

    Another powerful male joining forces with the Taliban. It's usually a Republican. This time it's a Democrat. Taliban is Taliban, regardless of American Political Party affiliation. The Republicans, the Taliban and Nelson are allies, with joint goals: Control Women!

    December 7, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. Doug

    It would be nice if a few of these hypocrites cared as much about newborns as they do about the yet-to-be-borns. Could it be they're more concerned about controlling women than they are about the sanctity of life? Or just proud that out infant mortality rate is at Third World levels.

    December 7, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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