Senate Democrat Introduces Amendment to Ban Tax Funding of Abortion in Senate Health Care Bill

By Penny Starr | December 7, 2009 | 6:56 PM EST

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)

( -- Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Monday introduced an amendment to the Senate health care bill that would prohibit federal funds from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion. A vote on the amendment could take place as early as Tuesday, Dec. 8.

“Most Americans, even those who support abortion, don’t want taxpayer-funded abortion,” Nelson said in introducing his amendment.
The amendment is co-sponsored by nine other senators, including Sen. Bob Casey (D.-Pa) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has led the effort with Nelson to add language to the Senate bill that mirrors the Stupak amendment that was approved in the House version of the health care bill that prohibits the federal tax dollars from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion.

To read the Sen. Nelson's amendment, click here.

“As written, the Senate health care bill allows taxpayer dollars, directly and indirectly, to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion,” Nelson said in a press release posted on his Web site on Monday. “Most Nebraskans, and Americans, do not favor using public funds to cover abortion and as a result this bill shouldn’t open the door to do so.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) used her five minutes on the Senate floor after Nelson introduced the amendment to say that the Democrat-crafted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 already prevents federal funds from being used for abortion.
She said that Nelson’s amendment discriminated against women and would prevent them from using their own money for a “legal procedure” and urged senators not to change the bill.
“Leave it alone,” said Boxer, who compared men getting a prescription for Viagra to a woman getting an abortion.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) (Photo courtesy of Boxer's Web site)

The Nelson-Hatch amendment, as it is known, provides the same protections as the one added to the House health care bill by another Democrat, Rep. Bob Stupak (D-Mich.), Nelson said.

“The amendment we offer today mirrors the Stupak language added to the House health care bill,” Nelson said. “For more than 30 years, taxpayers’ money hasn’t been used for abortions, a standard that has the broad support of the American people.”
He said law already applies to other federal health programs.

“This rule now applies to federal health programs covering veterans, federal employees, Native Americans, active duty service members and others, and should extend to those covered by any new health care bill,” Nelson said.
Nelson further said that the amendment extends the Hyde amendment to ensure that no federal funds are used to pay for abortion in the health care reform legislation currently being considered. The amendment would prohibit the use of the affordability tax credits to purchase a health insurance policy that covers abortion along with prohibiting federal funding for abortion under the public option.

Nelson, who is not a Catholic, cited in his press release a Nov. 20, 2009, letter to senators from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that urged the Senate to change the health reform bill to keep in place the longstanding federal policy against funding elective abortions or insurance plans that include elective abortions.

The other co-sponsors of the bill are Sam Brownback, (R-Kan.), John Thune, (R-S.D.), Mike Enzi, (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns, (R-Neb.), David Vitter, (R-La.), and John Barrasso, (R-Wyo.).