Abortion ban defeated in the Senate Finance Committee
Senator Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment to ban abortion coverage in the health reform bill. He said that his intent is simply to ensure that federal dollars will not be spent to pay for abortion. Additionally, he argued that it would save the Congress the trouble of passing the Hyde amendment on federal appropriations bills each year.
At the request of Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, the Finance Committee staff read from the bill to explain how the legislation already assures that goal. While explaining the provisions of the bill, the Diedra Henry-Spires told Senator Hatch that Senator Baucus’s drafting direction to the staff was that the bill should be a health reform bill, not an abortion bill and that he wanted to be absolutely certain the bill doesn’t change anything in current law about abortion.
Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine asked the staff to provide the committee with examples of how the provision to segregation of public and private funds will work to ensure that federal funds are not used to pay for abortion coverage. She also related that the Gang of Six had discussed and rejected the possibility of requiring women to purchase a rider for abortion coverage.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michegan spoke against Senator Hatch’s amendment, calling it offensive and pointing out that it does not maintain the status quo. In fact, she explained that it would impose unprecedented restrictions by preventing insurance plans from covering abortion for women who have used their own private dollars to pay for their health insurance policies.
Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington added her voice to the opposition, urging her colleagues to vote against the amendment.
Senator Hatch continued to insist that his amendment would only maintain current law and that women would still be able to purchase abortion coverage with private dollars. However, Politifact.com has looked at similar claims and ruled them false. Senator John Cornyn of Texas also spoke in support of the amendment.
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 13-10. Senator Snowe was the only Republican to vote against it along with all the Democrats except Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.