The Senate Finance Committee has rejected an amendment to the health care bill that would strengthen anti-abortion provisions in the legislation, according to a report from Fox News.
The amendment, authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, lost by a vote of 13 to 10. Hatch argued before the panel that the measure was needed to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion.
"I want assurances that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions," said Hatch. "Let's put specific language from my amendment into the bill."
Under the plan proposed by Hatch, women seeking coverage for abortion services would have needed to purchase unsubsidized supplemental plans.
The 12 Democrats on the panel uniformly opposed the Hatch amendment. They were joined in voting against the measure by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.
“The American people do not want, and should not be expected, to foot the bill for abortions,”said Hatch in reaction to the rejection of his proposal. “I am very disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee did not accept my amendment that would ensure this did not happen, especially given the fact that Chairman Baucus has made it clear during this mark-up that he did not want federal taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. "
For his part, Baucus complained that the amendment was unnecessary, arguing: "This is a health care bill, this is not an abortion bill."
Nonetheless, it is both unfortunate, and no surprise, that the measure was defeated in committee. Had it been attached to the bill, it almost certainly would have meant the end of health care reform legislation in the Senate.
Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said as much, calling the proposed amendment "a poison for this bill."
As for the whole health care bill, according to Fox, "Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid said … that the full Senate could start voting on health care legislation in less than two weeks -- possibly beginning the week of Oct. 12, after the Columbus Day holiday."