Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Tuesday made an extraordinary effort to save the Democratic healthcare reform bill from an anti-abortion amendment which could have derailed it.

Reid, who is pro-life and facing a difficult re-election contest next year, delivered a lengthy, emotional floor speech arguing against an amendment by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) which would have prohibited public money from funding abortions. At the end of the speech, however, Reid abruptly sat down, leaving Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to make a motion to table, or set aside, the amendment. The Senate began voting on the amendment at 5:10 p.m.

Reid said current law already bars taxpayer money from being used for abortions, but that Nelson's amendment would unfairly prohibit private money from being used. The majority leader said such a restriction would go too far and distract senators from the more important mission of health reform.

"I don't believe that the Senate needs to go as far as this amendment would take us," Reid said. "No one should use the healthcare bill to expand or restrict abortion. No one should use the issue of abortion to rob millions of the opportunity to get good healthcare. This is not the right place for this debate. We have to get on with the larger issue at hand. We have to keep moving toward the finish line and cannot be distracted by detours or derailed by diversions."