Baucus Health Care Bill Draws Initial Opposition, Abortion Funding Ban Needed

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 15, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Baucus Health Care Bill Draws Initial Opposition, Abortion Funding Ban Needed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 15
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Members of the Gang of Six, the lawmakers of the Senate Finance Committee who were at work with Senator Max Baucus on legislation that could become the main health care reform vehicle, have said no to his legislation at this point because of concerns about abortion funding.

Baucus had been negotiating with the group, comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats, and eventually crafted the bill on his own.

The committee chairman, and also a Montana Democrat, Baucus is prepared to present his legislation tomorrow. Political observers say it could become the main health care bill replacing the Kennedy bill and HR 3200 that have been dogged by pro-life advocates because they contain abortion funding.

However, CNN indicates two members of the Gang, pro-life Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, will oppose the bill in its current state over several political issues, including their desire to make sure it does not lead to abortion funding.

The Finance Committee is expected to take up the bill next week and debate amendments to it, which could include language from Enzi or Grassley making sure that abortions are not funded in any way under the plan.

The lawmakers also told the New York Times that they want to make sure there are not abortion mandates for insurance plans or conscience problems for pro-life medical workers who do not want to engage in or refer for abortions.

As such, the bill should “include a conscience clause to protect entities from being required to contract with abortion providers," they said.

The Times says pro-abortion Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, another Democrat participating in the negotiations, told his colleagues the bill should “remain silent” on abortion.

Another Democrat on the panel, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, said the lawmakers discussed abortion Monday afternoon and said that Enzi and Grassley want the amendment to the bill to make it clear no funds can pay for abortions.

"He said existing law that would apply to a health care bill prohibits federal funding of abortion, but added that the Senate negotiators want the bill to eliminate any doubt on the issue," CNN indicated.

As pro-life advocates have made clear, the Hyde amendment would not apply to the health care bills because it only deals with Medicaid.

These developments set the stage for a vote next week that would be the latest to follow one from this summer in which another committee defeated an amendment to stop tax-funded abortions.

When the Finance committee does vote, the pro-life side starts with a disadvantage as the committee is dominated 14-8 by abortion advocates with all of the Democrats on the panel and one Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, backing abortion.

CNN also indicates other members of the Gang oppose the bill as well, with Snowe having her own reasons and pro-abortion West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller saying he wants it to include the government-run health care plan known as the public option.

"I want to make clear that in its current form I cannot put my support behind the Finance bill — it will not have my vote," he said today.

"The way it is right now, now we have an amendment process coming up next week. I’ll have many, many, many amendments and we will see what happens on that. But now, there is no way that I can vote for the Senate package," he added.

Baucus released a framework for legislation last week and he intends to introduce an actual bill to his full committee on Wednesday.

A analysis of the framework shows no language preventing abortion funding or on abortion in any manner.

Leading pro-life groups have said that, without a specific ban on abortion funding, any health care legislation could pave the way for tax funding of abortions by either the Obama administration or interpretation by the courts.

ACTION: Contact members of the Senate Finance Committee and urge them to support amendments to make sure abortion funding and coverage are specifically excluded from the Baucus bill. You can find members of the panel here.

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