This vote was on a motion to kill an amendment that would have prohibited funds in a health care overhaul from being used to pay for an abortion or cover any part of the costs of a health plan that includes abortion coverage, with certain exceptions. The amendment would require individuals with policies subsidized under the heath care bill who want abortion coverage as part of their plan to purchase it separately with their own money. The amendment was offered to a bill that would overhaul the health insurance system, create a public health insurance option and impose requirements on insurance companies.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., made a motion that the amendment – which had been offered by Ben Nelson, D-Neb. – be killed, which is what this vote was on.
“In the middle of all this, we have an amendment that would roll back the clock on women’s rights. I am here to say, as I said last night … it is unacceptable to single out one group of people—namely the women of this country—and tell them they can’t use their own private money to buy an insurance policy that covers the range of reproductive health care. Why are women being singled out? It is so unfair,” Boxer said.
Boxer noted that for the past 30 years it has been against the law to use federal funds to directly fund abortions, but that private money could be used as long as abortions are legal.
“Well, this amendment says there is one group of people we are going to treat differently. We are going to take one procedure, that only applies to them, and say they can’t buy health insurance for that procedure—only if it is a separate rider, which everyone knows is unaffordable, impractical, and will not work. We don’t tell men, if they want to make sure they can buy insurance coverage through their pharmaceutical plan for Viagra, that they can’t do it. No, we don’t do that, and I wouldn’t support that.” Boxer said this amendment is nothing more than attempt to chip away at the legality of abortions.
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a cosponsor of the amendment, said Democrats are mischaracterizing what it would do.
“Our amendment does nothing to roll back women’s rights. We are applying current law to these programs. That is it. The current [law] ensures that no Federal Government funds are used to pay for elective abortion or health plans that provide elective abortion. Today States may only offer Medicaid abortion coverage if the coverage is paid for using entirely separate State funds, not State Medicaid matching funds. They cannot do that under current law. This is a longstanding policy based on a principle that the Federal Government does not want to encourage abortion,” Hatch said.
“Directly opposite … [the bill] explicitly authorizes the newly created public option to pay for elective abortions. The public option will operate under the authority of the Secretary of HHS and draw funds from the Federal Treasury account. Regardless of how these funds are collected, these funds from the Treasury are Federal funds. Funding of abortion through this program will represent a clear departure from longstanding policy by authorizing the Federal Government to pay for elective abortion for the first time in decades.”
By a vote of 54-45, the motion to kill the amendment was adopted. Of Democrats present, 50 voted to kill the amendment (including the most progressive senators) and seven voted against it. All but two Republicans present voted against killing the amendment. The end result is that the motion to kill the amendment carried, the amendment was defeated, and the health care overhaul bill went forward without language that would have prohibited funds in the bi from paying for any part of the costs of a health plan that includes abortion coverage, even if that coverage is paid for with private funds.