Senate Panel Opens Abortion Debate on Baucus Bill, Pro-Life Amendments Coming

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 22, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Panel Opens Abortion Debate on Baucus Bill, Pro-Life Amendments Coming

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 22
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Senate Finance Committee today started its debate on the new Baucus health care bill that contains massive abortion subsidies and mandates. During the opening statements, Sen. Chuck Grassley said the bill funds abortions and that it must be amended to make sure that is not the case.

"On abortion, despite commitments made by the President and Secretary Sebelius, this bill does not follow the longstanding principle that federal funds should not be provided for elective abortions," he said.

"Instead, federal funds would end up subsidizing elective abortions and plans that offer abortion coverage would be subsidized with those same federal funds," he added.

Grassley’s comments are the beginning of what will be the next battle over abortion and health care in Congress. Later this week, several amendments are expected from pro-life advocates on the committee.

At least six pro-life amendments will be offered that address abortion funding, state laws and the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals who do not want to be forced to perform or refer for abortions.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has introduced amendments 354, that protects the right of conscience of medical workers, and 355, which "prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under this Mark from being used for elective abortions and plans that cover such abortions."

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming is the sponsor of four pro-life amendments.

Amendment 426 "strikes the language in the bill regarding the requirement to offer plans with abortions, the requirement to segregate funds, the rules regarding the tax credits and abortions, and the non discrimination language on abortions."

Amendment 427 would "ensure that abortions are not paid for with federal funds and for the purchase of supplemental abortion coverage without federal funds."

Amendment 428 would "ensure state abortion laws and regulations are not preempted by provisions in the underlying bill."

And another amendment from Enzi "prohibits the federal government, any state or local government, health care provider or health plan that receives federal financial assistance from discriminating against an individual or institutional health care entity on the basis that the individual or entity does not perform or participate in" abortions.

Hatch is also behind another amendment, 353, that "prohibits federal funds under this Mark from being used to pay for assisted suicide and offers conscience protection to providers or plans refusing to offer assisted suicide services."

Senators were delivering opening statements during the morning session of Tuesday’s committee hearing, which Baucus predicted would last the rest of the week to deal with more than 560 amendments.

The Baucus bill provides $6 billion in federal funds for the establishment of health insurance cooperatives and pro-life groups say no limits are in place to make sure that money is not used to pay for abortions or for plans that pay for abortions.

Meanwhile, the Baucus bill would allow the federal government to declare abortion to be a "mandated benefit as part of a minimum benefits package" in any circumstances in which the federal Medicaid program could pay for an abortion.

Votes on the pro-life amendments would follow other votes this summer in which another Senate 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.

One member of the 14-lawmaker majority, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, has voted for abortion funding limits before and may vote for them again.

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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