By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The Democrats' Senate abortion compromise won over the party's last healthcare holdout, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, this weekend but is drawing lots of fire from both sides of the abortion issue—even though it paved the way for the Senate vote to end debate on the bill early this morning. The new abortion language includes steps to segregate federal funds from abortion coverage through separate accounts that would pool private premiums to pay for abortions; an explicit option for individual states to bar healthcare plans participating in their health insurance exchange from offering abortion coverage; protections for conscience rights; new tax credits for adoption, and new federal assistance for pregnant women.
Here's a weekend roundup of statements from all sides of the abortion wars vowing opposition to the new language:
The National Right to Life Committee:
The so-called "firewall" between federal funds and private funds is merely a bookkeeping gimmick, inconsistent with the long-established principles that govern existing federal health programs, such as the Hyde Amendment. Moreover, the Reid "firewall" is made of rice paper—it exists only so long as the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services continues to contain the Hyde Amendment.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The amendment includes some improvements from Senator Casey's proposal, including adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, but differs from that proposal in other ways: It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to "opt out" of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage. Instead it will require purchasers of such plans to pay a distinct fee or surcharge which is extracted solely to help pay for other people's abortions. … This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins:
The Senate health care bill will set up the federal government as being brokers for the abortion industry. No Senator or organization can call themselves pro-life if they support such language.
This so-called "compromise" includes the accounting gimmicks that we have seen previously proposed. The new language also does nothing to protect individual consciences. Every purchaser of insurance will be forced to pay for other people's abortions in a more direct manner than ever before.
Michigan Rep. Stupak, the antiabortion Democrat who coauthored the House healthcare bill's strict ban on federal funds for abortion coverage:
While I appreciate the efforts of all the parties involved, especially Senator Ben Nelson, the Senate abortion language is not acceptable... A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.
NARAL Pro-Choice America:
It is outrageous that, two weeks after pro-choice Americans came to Capitol Hill united against the egregious Stupak-Pitts amendment, the Senate has succumbed to including further anti-choice language in its bill. While the Senate bill does not include the Stupak-Pitts provision, this new language is unacceptable. It is inexplicable that a bill seeking to expand health coverage for Americans would impose such great administrative burdens on women who purchase abortion coverage and plans that offer it…
[T]he language regarding abortion coverage comes at too high a price for reproductive health. Thus, we must oppose this new Nelson language. And NARAL Pro-Choice America withholds support from the overall health-reform legislation until we assess the totality of provisions in the final bill that comes out of a conference committee between the House and Senate.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards:
"Planned Parenthood strongly opposes the new abortion language offered by Senator Ben Nelson in the manager's amendment. Last week, the Senate rejected harsh restrictions on abortion coverage, and it is a sad day when women's health is traded away for one vote.