Senators To Take On Abortion This Week
Senate Democrats will begin the new week by taking on one of the most divisive issues for their caucus: abortion. The Associated Press reports Democratic leaders are hoping a pep talk by President Obama Sunday and ongoing negotiations on the topic will buttress their effort to address the issue and move on. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., an anti-abortion centrist, introduced an amendment that would ban private health plans that receive federal subsidies from covering abortions, even if they are paid for by patients' premiums, much as the House has done. Liberals say that language is too restrictive. The amendment is expected to be up for debate Monday, and a vote could come as early as Tuesday, Nelson said.
"The amendment appeared unlikely to gain the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, according to numerous lawmakers. Democratic leaders hope to soften the House's tougher language in eventual House-Senate negotiations designed to send a bill to President Barack Obama's desk" (Babington, 12/7).
Even so, "antiabortion groups and Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) say they will continue insisting on tough language as a condition for supporting the overall bill," The Wall Street Journal reports. "The lack of a clear meeting point makes abortion somewhat different from the other top obstacle to the bill's passage, the publicly run insurance plan that some Democrats oppose. There, both sides are weighing a handful of compromises."
In its current form "the Senate health bill would include abortion coverage in the new public plan and would allow women who receive government tax credits for insurance to enroll in a plan that covers the procedure. The tax credit would be segregated so none of it could go toward funding abortion." Anti-abortion forces consider that too lenient while "abortion-rights advocates are taking a similarly rigid line, saying that such a change would represent the biggest setback for them in decades" (Adamy and Hitt, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.