Dodd on Why Health Care Bill Allows Federal Funding of Abortion: ‘We Like the Idea That People Have Choices’

By Marie Magleby | July 17, 2009 | 11:49 AM EDT

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) (AP Photo)

( – The Senate version of health care reform, which passed in committee on a 13-10 party-line vote last Wednesday, would effectively mandate federal funding of abortion through various insurance coverage mechanisms included in the bill.
When asked about the  fact that the bill will allow federal funding of abortion, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) told, “I think we handled the issue well.
“We like the idea that people have choices and, indeed, the law of the land permits people to make those choices, and we respect that, and we are going to pursue that,” said Dodd. “Again, we do not want to discriminate when people have--they have convictions, moral convictions and religious convictions,” Dodd added.

Likewise, President Obama's budget chief Peter Orszag told "FOX News Sunday" he thinks federal funding for abortion will "wind up being part of the debate."

"It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate," the Office of Management and Budget chief said. "I'm not prepared to rule it out," he added.
In the bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and being ushered through the Senate by Dodd, there is a two-part amendment that deals with women’s health, which was added by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
The language in the amendment is broad, with phrases that mandate coverage for unspecified “preventive care and screenings” for pregnant women, and direct insurers participating in government-subsidized plans to include in their networks unnamed “essential community providers.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

When Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked the sponsor of the language, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.), about this in committee last week, Mikulski admitted that her amendment covers “women’s health clinics” and “Planned Parenthood clinics,” and “would provide for any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate.” (Hear Audio)
When Hatch then suggested that the amendment include language that specifically said it not include abortion, Mikulski said, “No, I would not be willing to do that at this time.”
Federal funding for abortions has been prohibited by legislation known as the Hyde Amendment since 1976. After more than 30 years of this federal law preventing federal taxpayers from paying for abortion, Mikulski’s amendment effectively creates a loophole that will allow--and perhaps require--tax dollars to go to abortions.
The Hyde Amendment “would be circumvented in that bill,” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) told on Wednesday.  Enzi is the ranking Republican on the Senate Health committee that approved the bill.  He voted against Mikulski's language.
Hatch echoed Enzi’s fears concerning the broad language of the bill. “I think it’s a terrible mistake,” Hatch said.
“The Hyde language says taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay – especially those taxpayers who don’t believe in abortion – should not have to be paying for abortions for those who do,” Hatch said.
On Monday, before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension voted on the final package, Hatch offered an amendment that would have prohibited any federal funds under the bill from going to abortions, either directly or through insurance plans that cover abortions. The amendment reads:
“No funds authorized under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for an abortion or to cover any part of the cost of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.”
Hatch’s amendment did not pass. Amendments by Enzi and by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to restrict the abortion coverage provision were defeated by the Democrats, who hold a majority in the committee. Mikulski’s amendment was passed by a narrow majority, with only one Democrat, Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), voting against it with his Republican colleagues.
Concerning Mikulski’s amendment, Casey said last week: “The way it’s written, I believe it’s too broad and that the way it could be interpreted down the road might include something like abortion, and I’m concerned about that – the breadth of that and the scope of it, and for that reason I’ll oppose it.”
However, Casey did vote in favor of the final legislation, which includes the amendment, on Wednesday.