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Senate Panel Keeps Subsidized Abortion Coverage in Health Care Bill

7:20 PM, Sep 30, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Today, on a 13 to 10 vote, the Senate Finance Committee rejected an amendment offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to prohibit taxpayer money from paying for elective abortions. Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine were the only senators to cross party lines on the vote. The Hill's Jeffrey Young reports:

Hatch's first amendment would have required women to purchase a separate, supplemental insurance plan to cover abortion services. The aim, he said, was to make existing laws against federal money being used to pay for abortions, and the language in the healthcare bill, ironclad.

"All I'm asking -- my gosh -- is for specific language in the bill that prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund abortions," Hatch said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) described Hatch's amendment as "insulting" to women.

Democrats on the committee, along with Snowe, rejected Hatch's argument, saying it would be unfair to require women to purchase separate insurance coverage for abortion services. "It's discriminating against women," said committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who authored the bill.

Right now, the language in the Senate Finance Committee bill and the language likely to be included in the final House Bill (the Capps amendment) would allow federally subsidized plans to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions.

"Obama has promised for months that the health care overhaul would not provide federal money to pay for elective abortions, but White House officials have declined to spell out what he means," the New York Times reported yesterday. Congressional Democrats claim that the current bill prohibits federal funding for abortions because--on paper at least--insurers would segregate an individual's premium contributions from the federal subsidies and then pay abortionists with the private money. This amounts to little more than a bookkeeping scheme, as the National Right to Life Committee's Doug Johnson has argued.

The Times also reported that "Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, a leading Democratic abortion opponent, said he had commitments from 40 Democrats to block the health care bill unless they have a chance to include the restrictions." If true, that would be enough votes to block the bill in the House.