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Orrin Hatch Will Introduce Abortion Funding Restrictions in Senate Health Bill

5 years ago
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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Politics Daily Tuesday that he plans to introduce an amendment to the Senate health care reform bill similar to the amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that was attached to the House health care reform bill. When asked if his amendment would mirror the Stupak language, he said. "I think so, I think that's a fair appraisal."

Stupak's measure says people who buy insurance through the new government exchange would not be allowed to buy a policy that covered abortion.

Few specifics are known about the full bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring to the Senate floor for consideration, but one thing is assured. With Hatch's amendment, the issue that threatened to derail House passage of the bill -- restricting direct and indirect federal funding for abortion -- will be a part of the Senate debate.

"It will be much more difficult in the Senate," Hatch predicted. He said he has already reached out to Democrats to get support for the measure, but said, "There are so few you can really turn to."

The conservative senator has led the effort to restrict federal funding for abortion throughout the health care reform debate this year. He offered two amendments -- one in the Senate Finance Committee and one in the Health, Education and Labor and Pensions Committee -- to permanently restrict federal funding for abortion services. The existing Hyde amendment language already restricts direct federal funding for abortion, but must be approved annually.

Both of Hatch's amendments were defeated at the committee level, but did garner some Democratic support. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) voted with Hatch in the Finance Committee, which defeated the amendment 13 to 10. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) supported the Hatch amendment on the 11-12 vote in the HELP committee. During the Finance committee's consideration of the Hatch amendment, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) warned the measure would be "a poison pill" for health care reform.

After suffering a stinging defeat with the House's approval of the Stupak amendment, pro-choice activists have mobilized to prevent Senate passage of a similar measure. NARAL Pro-Choice America delivered petitions with more than 90,000 signatures opposing the Stupak amendment to Reid's Senate office Monday, but the fate of the measure will come down to a handful of moderate senators who oppose either abortion or federal funding for it.

Today, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) told Politics Daily he wants to see stronger language restricting federal funding for abortion services than exists in the committee-passed bills. Because Reid has not revealed specific language of his bill, it is not known how abortion is treated in the legislation. It would be difficult to remove language during the conference committee if it has already been passed by both the House and Senate.

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