November 9th, 2009
06:20 PM ET
12 years ago

Senate controversy over abortion already underway

Washington (CNN) - In a sign that the wrenching House debate over abortion is already vexing Senate Democrats, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson told CNN Monday he will vote against any health care bill that does not include the strict abortion restrictions that passed the House.

"If there's public money going to fund abortions, I can't support it, period, no matter what else is in it," said Nelson, a staunchly anti-abortion Democrat.

The House approved a health care bill Saturday night that prohibits abortion coverage in a government-run plan, and in private plans that accept anyone using government subsidies to buy insurance coverage. People would be permitted to by supplemental coverage with their own money that includes covers abortions.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, a leading abortion rights voice in the Senate, told CNN Monday that approach was "radical" and "unfair to women," and said she will meet with a group of female senators Tuesday to start looking for a way to limit abortion restrictions in the Senate health care bill.

"We want to make sure we don't deny women the opportunity to avail themselves of a totally legal procedure," Boxer told CNN in a phone interview. "We believe this is unfair to women, it singles them out as a group. There is no other procedure in this bill that is denied."

With Boxer's Democratic colleague from Nebraska, Ben Nelson, just as adamantly opposed to a health care bill without strict abortion prohibitions, it appears the Democratic abortion divide in the Senate is threatening to derail its health bill - just as it almost did in the House.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted it is going to be hard, but Democrats will be working around the clock to find a middle ground on abortion. "We will be burning the creative midnight oil," Baucus said.

House Democratic leaders only agreed late Friday night to allow a Saturday vote on the abortion amendment, after it became clear there were enough anti-abortion Democrats demanding it that their health care bill would fail without it.

Most House Democrats in favor of abortion rights voted for the health care bill despite the abortion restrictions they vehemently oppose.

However, more than 40 of those Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the House Speaker Monday threatening to block the health care bill from going to the president's desk if the abortion restrictions are not eased.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. DSW

    Are we taling about any abortions whatsoever – what about abortions for women who have been raped, incest or are in danger of going full term – I haven't seen the extent to how far this goes.
    Before we even go down the road of pro-life/anti-abortions what about sex education, contraception etc.
    There should be something in women's healtncoverage that reduceds cost of contraception.
    Before we evern have to think about abortions – wouldn't it make sense for all women to have direct access to birth control.
    Let's try to recduce the demand for abortions by educating and using birth control.

    November 9, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  2. Chip Pudims

    It's beyond amazing that there are people who put their own self interests above the life of child! As simply as I can put it: "If you're pro-choice, your mother made the wrong choice"!

    November 9, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  3. Jim

    A dictionary defines "red herring" as "a deliberate attempt to change a subject or divert an argument." The debate over abortion is a red herring and distraction from the critical need for health care reform!

    Most Americans have health insurance that covers abortions. Most Americans want to encourage women to keep their unwanted children. Most Americans recognize they cannot impose their personal values on others.

    As a lifelong Catholic, I believe Congress needs to strengthen our economy by reforming our health care system – not fight endlessly over whether abortions should be paid for by insurance.


    November 9, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  4. John in Austin, Texas

    Im a fire breathing liberal in some respects. I also believe in a womans right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. However, I do NOT believe that insurance of ANY kind should pay for an abortion unless it follows the stipulations according to the House Bill (incest, rape, harm, etc.). Just my .02

    November 9, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. Paula

    As a tax payer, I would much rather pay for abortions than welfare.

    November 9, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  6. jules sand-perkins

    Why do so many people not realize that pregnancy can be avoided?

    November 9, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  7. LacrosseMom

    There IS already a law,called the Hyde Amendment, that prohibits the Federal Government from paying for abortions.

    The "more than 40 of those Democratic lawmakers" (actually it was 39) WILL NOT BE REELECTED.


    November 9, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  8. Larry

    These people need to GET OVER THEMSELVES

    This health bill is not about their individual wants

    It's about what THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT



    PASS A GOOD BILL !!!!!!!!!!

    November 9, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  9. Keith A Sillsbury

    Honestly if this is all that is holding up progress in passing healthcare reform then let them have it. It doesn't cost that much for an abortion anyway. It doesn't include cases of rape, incest or cases where the mothers life is in jeopardy. We need to get past these little stubling blocks for the greater good of America. What should be an issue is capping payouts in lawsuits by determening the dollar value of the human animal. If by accident you die and its someone elses falt, the monitary value needs to be reasonable and fair. I'd estimate one to five million.

    November 9, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  10. ran

    Just another excuse to not vote for this or any bill.

    Just do the 51 vote option now and be done with it all. Might as well give us the single payer non-profit universal now because we will not get the 60 vote for any bill at this time.

    shame on the senate.

    November 9, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  11. We Won Get Over It

    I don't understand why they think they have the right to put this provision in the bill. If they knew anything about the laws in this country they would know that federal funds have been restricted from paying for abortions anyway. Course I have a very good idea to straighten all this crap about abortions out.

    This is it......I am a woman who has been denied abortion. I name the father. Since I can't have an abortion, we take the man responsible perform a vasectomy/cut off the reproductive organ and that way he can't be responsible for any more pregnancies......

    Do you think that would do it. Bet a dollar to a doughnut all the men in congress would drop any reference to abortion.


    November 9, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. Rob

    I wonder if people realize the money that is taken out of their paychecks for health insurance along with the deductibles and premiums they pay, are used to pay doctors who perform abortions. People shovel hundreds of dollars into the private sector that includes companies that commit egregious acts against humanity, but don't want their tax dollars to fund what their other dollars do anyway? Regardless of the fact that if you were giving it to the government rather than some HMO, you would also being helping a lot of people obtain health care? I don't understand people sometimes.

    November 9, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  13. Tim

    Don't forget that Obama said no public money would go to fund abortions.

    He said it loud and clear. He also said no illegal immigrants would have access to the system.

    Want to take bets he said it for the camera?

    November 9, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  14. Keith in Austin

    Every senator approving this travesty legislation is putting his/her political career in doom! The American People have voiced their disapproval of Obamacare and the continued deficit spending it will cause. You better listen to us Washington!

    November 9, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. Debbie

    If abortion is to be part of the debate and removed from the gov plan then so should invitro, fertility specialists, and viagra. They all are medical procedures, they all have to do with reproductive issues, and to not single out 1/2 the population it is only fair to deny anything that infers with the natural process of reproduction.

    November 9, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  16. Kevin

    The right to have an abortion should not be taken away from woman in the United States. However, as a pro-choice democrat, I don't believe my tax dollars should be used to end the life of an (un) expected child. I think this decision should be left up to a woman and paid for by that woman or that woman’s family.

    November 9, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  17. John, Brooklyn, NY

    It is unfortunate that a procedure that is fully protected by the Constitution cannot be covered under the healthcare bill. Gays, blacks, and Jews should be concerned....if conservatives can target specific diseases or procedures that they don't feel they can morally allow in the bill, what is stopping them from someday saying that the government should not fund treatment for HIV, Sickle Cell Anemia, or Tay Sachs Disease?

    November 9, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  18. Charles Jones

    The abortion issue will derail the health care takeover. There are Representatives whose obsession with abortion is so great that they will actually vote AGAINST women's health.

    If the abortion ban is included, these abortion-obsessed people will vote against women's health and kill the bill. If the abortion ban is taken OUT, Ellsworth, Stupak, and Cao will vote against the final bill and it will fail. It only passed by 3 votes the last time.

    November 9, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  19. Raul

    Phoney Stand!!! Hyde Amendment already in these HC bills, so this Abortion debate is a sideshow to avoid taking a stand for reform. We need leaders with backbone (in both parties) to pass healthcare reform. If Democrats really care about helping the middle class, they would vote for this. If Republicans really care about small business, they would vote for this. Lobbyists from big insurance have corrupted too many of these politicians.

    November 9, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  20. Grundoon

    How about putting comprehensive family planning in there and lessen the need for abortion?

    November 9, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  21. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    How can you be anti-abortion and anti- public option simultaneously?
    Anti-abortion is to welcome these babies into the world. If you really mean it, you'd better give these babies and their parents a strong public option. Take the health care burden off the parents first. Then you may find more parents willing to raise more babies.

    November 9, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  22. Marcus Mead

    What a difference a generation makes!

    The last time there was an attempt to reform health care, anyone carrying the pro-life banner was ridiculed and mocked as an ignorant bafoon.

    And now... The Democrats need to fight with each other over this?

    I'm glad to see our country has finally realized that we all start life the same way- seeing Democrats stand up for life has given me my first opportunity in 20 years to reconsider long-held opinions of their party.

    It also makes me wonder why some Republicans feel the need to "moderate" the RNC.

    November 9, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  23. OzarksWisdom

    Any politician who dares defend this bloated, Socialist bill deserves nothing but mocking shame. They're exempting themselves from their own coverage, for goodness sake !

    If I didn't know better, I'd think this bill was crafted in Havana rather than in Washington.

    November 9, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  24. manyamile

    I think honoring the legal rights of millions of American women is more important than kowtowing to the Senator from Nebraska, his personal views and political posturing.

    November 9, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  25. mary

    It was the Catholic church who pressured the house. It's way past time the Church starts paying income taxes, for always putting their two cents in. Aren't religions suppose to stay out of politics?

    November 9, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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