Senators Vote Against Restrictions on Abortion Funding in Healthcare Bill

Majority of Catholic Senators Choose Planned Parenthood Concerns over Bishops
by Lisa Correnti | Source:

On Tuesday the Senate voted 54-45 to table (kill) the pro-life Nelson amendment. Sponsored by Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, the bill contained language similar to the Stupak amendment of the House version of the healthcare bill which prohibits the federal funding of abortion.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) moved to table (kill) the Nelson amendment. Seven Democrats joined most Republicans in voting for it, while two Republicans -- Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- voted with the Democrats. 

Sixteen Catholic Senators rejected the urging of the Catholic bishops for policy that protects the dignity of all human life opting instead to support the agenda of pro-abortion groups. Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards issued a statement responding to the defeat of the Nelson amendment with the usual rhetoric. 

“This vote is a positive step towards ensuring health care reform legislation moves forward without making women worse off after this process,” said Richards. Planned Parenthood reported performing over 300,000 abortions in 2007-2008.

The Center for Responsive Politics has found that senators who voted in favor of tabling the amendment received an average of nearly $60,000 from abortion rights groups and an average of just $80 from pro-life groups over the past twenty years.

The United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB) urged the senate in a Dec. 7 letter and in a November 20 letter to amend Senator Reid's bill "to keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections on abortion." The USCCB issued an unprecedented nationwide action alert asking Catholics to lobby their lawmakers in support of the Stupak amendment in the House and the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment in the Senate.

If the Senate bill passes in its current form which allows abortion funding under both the public option and the affordability credits to purchase insurance, it will return to the House conference committee to be reconciled with the House bill that passed last month. The USCCB said in a statement released after the defeat of the Nelson amendment they will continue to work with Congress to achieve reform that meets their criteria but will oppose the final bill if abortion funding remains.

Cardinal Francis George, President of the USCCB said the following:

“While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation. Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.” 

The ten Catholic Senators supporing the Nelson amendment were nine Republicans and one Democrat. They were Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Kaufman (D-DE), LeMieux (R-FL), Risch (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Johanns (R-NE), Voinovich (R-OH) and Casey (D-PA).

Catholic lawmakers voting against abortion funding restrictions were Senators; Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D-LA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), Kirk (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Collins (R-ME) , Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), and Murray (D-WA). 

Voting positionas for all senators are available at

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