Senate Approves Ban on Abortion Funding in Indian Health Care Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Approves Ban on Abortion Funding in Indian Health Care Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 26
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — The Senate approved an amendment on Tuesday that would permanently prevent abortion funding at Indian health care service facilities. The amendment from Sen. David Vitter would codify a longstanding policy against funding of abortions with federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funds.

The language of the Vitter amendment follows the Hyde amendment, which prohibits direct funding of abortion under Medicaid except in very rare cases when the mother is a victim of rape or incest or when the pregnancy threatens her life.

The IHS bill has never carried the Hyde amendment and the bill funded abortions well after the Hyde amendment was first enacted in 1976.

The Senate voted 52 to 42 for the Vitter amendment and pro-life Republicans relied on the support of several Democrats to approve it.

“This is an important victory for the cause of life,” pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback told after the vote.

“In the midst of the national debate about abortion, we have come to some fundamental agreements. We should not be using American tax dollars to fund abortion," he added.

Almost all of the Senate Republicans other than Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter voted for the amendment.

They were joined by Democrats Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

The three senators running for president, abortion advocates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and John McCain, who opposes abortion, were not present for the vote.

The Reagan Administration curbed the practice of funding abortions through the IHS bill administratively in 1982, as a temporary fix, Johnson said. In 1988, Congress said that the Hyde amendment would apply to the IHS bill.

With a presidential election at hand and two Democratic candidates who strongly support funding abortions with taxpayer funds, there is nothing that could stop them from changing the current regulations unless a federal law prohibiting the funding is in place.

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of National Right to Life, told senators last month about the impact of the vote.

"Rejection of the Vitter Amendment would have the effect of leaving the door open to future federal funding of abortion on demand by the IHS," he concluded.

Pro-abortion lawmakers were expected to offer an alternative amendment to Vitter’s that would muddy up the process, but they withheld it.

Meanwhile, companion legislation to the Senate IHS bill, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, has not yet been considered in the full House. The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to work on the House version, H.R. 1328, but no date has been set.

ACTION: Contact your senators about their vote. See how they voted by going to this web site.