December Health Care Update

As the battle to protect Life in health care reform legislation continues, there have been victories and defeats. The most notable victory has of course been the passage of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, and its successful addition to the House version of health care reform legislation. This triumph came after many weeks of SBA List activists contacting their representatives via phone, and email.

However, when a similar amendment was offered to Sen. Harry Reid’s Senate health care bill, there was no success. On Monday, December 7th, Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) filed an amendment that would prevent tax-payer funded abortion. The chief co sponsor to the bipartisan amendment was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Senators Casey, Brownback, Thune, Enzi, Coburn, Johanns, Vitter and Barrasso also co-sponsored the amendment. Almost identical to the Stupak amendment , the Nelson amendment would have applied the policy of the Hyde Amendment to health care reform, barring federal funding for abortion, except in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother. This ban would stand for the government-run plan (public option), as well as for private policies purchased using premium subsidies.  The Hyde Amendment policy currently applies to the 8 million Americans – including Members of Congress covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) led the effort in the Senate to table the Nelson Amendment, essentially killing the amendment. Without the Nelson amendment, the Senate health care bill is unacceptable from a pro-life standpoint, allowing government funds to pay for elective abortions under the public option at the discretion of the Health and Human Services Secretary. Reid’s bill also allows taxpayer dollars to go to elective abortions because government subsidies could be to pay for private insurance plans that cover abortion.

Debate is expected to continue in the Senate for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks as Sen. Reid negotiates the votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate. Then the legislation will move to a conference with both the House and Senate to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill. In the meantime, SBA activists are encouraged to pressure their Senators to vote against the final passage of the Senate bill until authentic pro-life language is added.  Many Senators, including Harry Reid (D-NV) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have labeled themselves as “pro-life,” but have yet to come out strong in opposition to the bill without pro-life language. Email your Senators today!