Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was one of 16 Catholics in the Senate who joined in tabling the Nelson – Hatch Amendment last night. Mike Hoey, interim director of the Missouri Catholic Conference said of McCaskill’s vote, “This amounts to a broken promise. The promise Senator McCaskill made this summer was to keep federally funded abortions out of healthcare reform. The Nelson-Hatch amendment would have done that.”
Hoey’s comments were made in an article which will appear in the Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO, which is posted below. For the record, other Catholics in the Senate effectively voting to fund abortion in health care reform were: Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), John Kerry (D-MA), Paul Kirk (D-MA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Christopher Dodd (D-CN), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Here’s the report from Jefferson City:
By Jay Nies
Jefferson City - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday walked away from an opportunity to keep federally funded abortion out of a proposed reform to the nation's healthcare system.
By a 54-45 vote while debating the health care reform bill, the Senate ended discussion on a pro-life amendment offered by U.S. Senators Benjamin Nelson of Nebraska and Orrin Hatch of Utah.
The amendment would have prevented any government-operated or federally subsidized insurance plan from covering abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond of Missouri voted against a motion to end discussion on the Nelson-Hatch pro-life amendment.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who stated this summer that she would not vote for a healthcare bill that uses taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions, voted in favor of ending the discussion on the Nelson-Hatch amendment, effectively killing the amendment.
"This amounts to a broken promise," said Mike Hoey, interim director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), the public-policy agency of the state's Roman Catholic bishops. "The promise Sen. McCaskill made this summer was to keep federally funded abortions out of healthcare reform. The Nelson-Hatch amendment would have done that."
The Nelson-Hatch amendment prohibited any public or private health insurance plan that accepts federal subsidies from covering elective abortions. People wishing to have abortion coverage would have had to pay separately for that coverage with their own money.
"The amendment would not interfere with individuals who want to buy abortion coverage," said Mr. Hoey. "It's very consistent with federal policies as they already exist. For example, Medicaid does not pay for elective abortions."
Sen. McCaskill said she believes the current language in the Senate's version of healthcare reform would keep taxpayer money from subsidizing abortion.
"That simply isn't true," said Mr. Hoey. "By failing to adopt the Nelson-Hatch amendment, this health care reform bill provides tax payer dollars to subsidize elective abortions, something the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose.”
Mr. Hoey said Tuesday that although the outcome of the vote is disappointing, "we're not through fighting for this yet."
He said the Senate might take up the amendment again if the sponsors of the proposed health care legislation can't get enough votes to pass it without pro-life support from senators like Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska).
Also, even if the Senate passes health care reform legislation their version will have to be reconciled with the House version. The House version includes a pro-life amendment, sponsored by Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), barring taxpayer money from subsidizing abortions.
“In a conference committee, you have to negotiate the differences between the two versions,” Hoey said. “It's possible that the Senate conferees would agree to the House position on the matter, and allow the pro-life (Stupak) amendment to stay in the bill.”
A spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony List pro-life organization, in a Dec. 8 statement, asserted that without the Nelson-Hatch amendment, the Senate version of healthcare reform “explicitly authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to include abortion coverage in the public option” and “also allows the use of government subsidies to purchase insurance policies that include elective abortion coverage.”
Mr. Hoey reiterated that the Catholic Church has consistently supported ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare.
"We continue to support that goal," he said. "But it's got to be done in a way that respects the sanctity of all human life, and that includes keeping federally funded abortions out of healthcare."
He said he hopes Sen. McCaskill and the other senators who voted against keeping abortion out of healthcare will have a change of heart and will get another chance to vote on the Nelson-Hatch amendment.
"We certainly hope and pray that that happens," he said.
Those wishing to better understand the provisions of the Nelson - Hatch amendment may visit the Web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“What does the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment Really Do?” http://usccb.org/healthcare/nelsondo.pdf
Sen. McCaskill can be reached at (202) 224-6154 or by visiting her website at http://mccaskill.senate.gov/contact/.
Sen. Bond can be reached at (202) 224-5721 or by visiting http://bond.senate.gov/public/.