Reid-Nelson Compromise Leaves Open Abortion Funding on Indian Reservations

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 19, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Reid-Nelson Compromise Leaves Open Abortion Funding on Indian Reservations

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 19
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Senate Republicans have analyzed the so-called new abortion funding compromise struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson. They say the language, which doesn’t ban abortion funding under the bill, leaves open paying for abortions on Indian reservations.

Senate Republican aides examining the new language say Reid’s amendment, which would add the compromise to the government-run health care bill, doesn’t apply to Indian health care provisions.

The amendment includes “by reference” legislation the Indian Affairs Committee approved last year covering health care for the many tribal reservations. According to a Roll Call article, that version of the legislation is deemed passed by the whole Senate by including a reference to it in the health care bill.

However, the Indian health care legislation the committee approved does not include a ban on abortion funding that has traditionally been included in such bills. Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, tried to get an abortion funding ban included on the Senate floor, but the bill died in a conference committee.

Meanwhile, the Reid-Nelson language does not apply to the Indian health care funding bill.

One republican aide told Roll Call that is a "huge mistake" and predicted it could cause problems for Reid because it undermines the supposed deal he has with Nelson to exclude abortion funding.

“When you drop major pieces of legislation into a 2,000-page bill simply by reference, you’re going to make mistakes. For advocates of life, this mistake is a huge one,” the aide said.

However, an aide to a Democratic senator claimed the Hyde amendment would cover the Indiana health care funding, even though it typically only applies to the bill covering Medicare and HHS.

The legislation “maintains the long-standing practice of applying the same standard for [Indian Health Services] as [Health and Human Services], which is Hyde,” the aide claimed, according to Roll Call.

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

Last year, the Senate voted for the Vitter amendment on a 52 to 42 vote with all of the Senate Republicans other than Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voting 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 Reagan Administration curbed the practice of funding abortions through the IHS bill administratively in 1982, as a temporary fix.

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