Senate Passes Health Care Bill; Pro-Life Groups Vow Action

Several pro-life groups are up in arms over the Senate's Christmas Eve vote that pushed through a heath care bill they say would allow tax dollars to pay for elective abortions.

"On Christmas Eve, the U.S. Senate gave Americans a gift no one wants: abortion for all, at taxpayer-expense," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

"The senators who voted to advance this legislation should consider themselves on notice. Votes have consequences, and the Susan B. Anthony List will use all the resources at our disposal to educate their constituents about today's result," warned Dannenfelser, whose pro-life women's group claims 280,000 members.

On Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the health care bill in a 60-39 vote. All 58 Democrats and two Independents voted for the bill while every Republican opposed it.

Though the most contentious issue is whether the plan will provide coverage for abortion, the bill's supporters were able to pick up the critical vote of pro-life democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who consented to the plan after it allowed states to opt out of funding elective abortions.

The abortion compromise, however, has been rejected by pro-life groups, who have denounced Nelson as a "betrayer" for supporting the health care bill. They argue that the language would allow liberal states such as California and New York to receive federal money to pay for elective abortion, which they say would be the greatest expansion of government-backed abortion since the infamous Roe v. Wade case made abortion legal. The Senate bill, they noted, also does not include language to prevent one state's tax dollars from funding abortions in other states.

"The bill is a betrayal of conscience for millions of Americans," said Dannenfelser. "And it is a betrayal of the principles proclaimed by [pro-life senators] (Harry) Reid, (Ben) Nelson, (Bob) Casey. Today's vote is exactly the type of 'leadership' that repels the American electorate."

Likewise, Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, strongly criticized the bill and how it was passed.

"During this holy season commemorating the humility and love of God who came to earth as a baby, these senators voted to fund abortion," said CWA president Wendy Wright in a statement.

"The House must now deal with this monstrosity of a bill," she added, vowing that her organization will work to convince House members to "kill this bill."

The nation's largest pro-life Catholic ministry, Priests for Life, also promised to mobilize voters to support pro-life senators during next year's election.

"[P]erhaps next November senators will learn just how offensive their [Christmas] gift is," said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

The unhappy pro-life groups are hoping that aggressive pro-life lawmaker Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) will lead his gang of pro-life Democrats in the House to oppose the bill.

Stupak has vowed to stand up against the final version of the bill unless it contains amendment language on abortion similar to his.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House version of the health care bill clearly bans all federal funding of elective abortion in public and private plans.

"We are going to hold firm and make sure the Stupak-Pitts language stays when this legislation comes back to us," Stupak said, according to Health Care News. "We will not vote for this bill if that language is not here."

With the passage of the Senate version of the health care bill, the United States is now one step closer to passing the largest expansion of medical coverage since the Medicare and Medicaid programs more than 40 years ago. The proposed health care reform is estimated to extend insurance coverage to 30 million additional Americans.

A committee of Senate and House lawmakers will now have the difficult task of reconciling the two versions of the bill, including the public option, how to fund the nearly $1 trillion health care plan, and the different abortion language.

Stupak has reported that he has at least ten to 12 other Democrats who will not vote for the bill if it allows public funding of abortion. Some observers think that the reconciled bill cannot pass in the House without the support from Stupak and his group of pro-life Democrats.