Senate Democrats Nelson, Casey Backing Down on Abortion, Health Care Battle

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Democrats Nelson, Casey Backing Down on Abortion, Health Care Battle

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — If the pro-life movement has any chance of stopping abortion funding in the Senate version of the health care bill, they need Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson and Bob Casey to help lead the fight. While they have either voted for abortion limits or said they would do so, their recent statements show a backing down.

Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, is the truest pro-life Democrat in the Senate and had previously made ironclad statements that he would not support a health care bill that included abortion funding.

Nelson appeared ready to become the next Stupak and the leader from either party against abortion funding in the Senate.

"He believes that no federal money — including subsidies or tax credits — should be used to buy insurance coverage for abortion. This is a very important issue to Senator Nelson and it is highly unlikely he would support a bill that doesn’t clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion," his office said.

“I feel that something like the Stupak amendment should be included in the Senate version. I don’t know that it’s not because I haven’t seen the Senate version,” Nelson said Monday.

Today, CNN reports that Nelson "now says he would be satisfied with the less restrictive language approved by the Senate Finance Committee."

The panel approved the Baucus bill after it rejected an amendment from Sen. Orrin Hatch that would have the bill conform to current federal law prohibiting direct abortion funding. As a result, the bill opens the door to massive abortion funding.

Meanwhile, Casey was a solid yes vote on an amendment in committee supported by pro-life groups to axe the abortion funding from that version of the Senate health care bill.

Now, his office has released a statement that appears to go along with comments from President Barack Obama saying that the Stupak amendment goes too far in banning abortion funds, even though the analysis is off base.

"Senator Casey thinks that health care reform should not be used to change longstanding policies regarding federal financing of abortion which has been in place since 1976," spokesman Larry Smar said.

"He voted for amendments in the HELP Committee that would maintain neutrality on abortion. Until Senate bill language is released it is premature to discuss next steps," he added.

The comments make it appear Casey would side with the Stupak amendment, but with President Obama and abortion advocates saying it changes the status quo on abortion funding — by going further than the Hyde amendment — that leaves the door open to Casey voting against a Stupak-type amendment.

At the same time, the amendments he voted for in the HELP Committee included a Hatch Amendment that was like the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

Later today, Casey himself spoke on the expected abortion debate and backed down further, saying he did not want to “draw lines in the sand.”

"I think it’s important we get a good strong health-care bill done this year, but I think we can get a bill done that keeps public dollars out of paying for abortion,” Casey said. “There is still some work to be done on that, even in the light of what the House did…The Senate is a different place; there are different dynamics.”

With pro-life advocates likely needing 60 votes to get any amendment approved to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care bill to stop abortion funding, every vote is critical.

However, Casey and Nelson could be getting a sense that the Senate will not approve a Stupak-type amendment. If that happens, pro-life advocates would urge votes against the bill itself.

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.