Senate rejects new threat to abortion in health reform!

The Senate Finance Committee this morning rejected, by a 13 to 10 margin, a proposal by Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, that would have turned abortion coverage into an optional “rider” that women would have to buy separately when purchasing health insurance through the proposed insurance “exchange” that would be created under health reform. Hatch and his anti-choice colleagues said the purpose of the amendment was to make absolutely sure no public dollars would be used for abortion coverage, even though the Baucus health reform bill already does that in a different way by requiring that public funds be kept separate from private funds when abortion coverage is provided.

“As a woman, I find this offensive,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who was one of several Senators arguing vigorously against Stabenow called “an extreme amendment” in committee debate. “This is not about tax dollars,” she said, but rather “this is an unprecedented intrusion into what people can buy in the private marketplace.” She and a committee staffer said that the Hatch proposal would ban abortion entirely from all insurance plans offered in the insurance exchange, and thus remove that coverage from private insurance policies women now have and are paying for with their own money.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, said the Hatch proposal would move the health reform bill from one that maintains the status quo on abortion – by maintaining the current prohibition on use of federal funds for abortion – to one “that would change the status quo. ”Also arguing against the Hatch amendment was Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who elicited testimony from committee staff that states which now use their own dollars to fund abortions in the Medicaid program are able to successfully segregate those funds from federal Medicaid funding that cannot be used for abortions.

Please thank the Senators who voted against the outrageous Hatch abortion ban! They include Baucus, Bingaman, Menendez, Cantwell, Snowe, Stabenow, Nelson, Schumer, Rockefeller.

A few minutes later, another proposal by Senator Hatch to insert a new “conscience” or refusal clause was also defeated by 13 to 10!

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