Abortion-rights supporters, opponents slam bill

Congressional Democrats were left alone on Saturday to defend the Senate's healthcare compromise as both supporters and opponents of abortion rights went after the deal.

The Senate bill's language on abortion, intended to segregate federal funds from going to support abortions, made for strange bedfellows from groups on opposite sides of the abortion debate, virtually all of which said today they oppose the Senate's bill.

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"The so-called healthcare reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid's manager's amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us," said Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), a group that's been a longtime supporter of abortion rights.

"We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women's rights to reject the manager's amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation," O'Neill said.

Planned Parenthood also said it had "no choice" but to oppose the Senate bill.

"Planned Parenthood strongly opposes the new abortion language offered by Senator Ben Nelson in the manager's amendment," President Cecile Richards said. "We understand that leaders in the Senate and the White House want to move the process forward, but given this provision, we have no choice but to oppose the Senate bill."

The manager's amendment put together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) crafted language in order to bring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on board with the overall bill, providing Democrats the 60th vote they need to proceed with debate and pass the bill.

Democrats in Congress, including ardent proponents of abortion rights, defended the deal as a necessary and acceptable compromise.

"Let’s be clear — we were both much happier with the Capps language and the language in the underlying bill," Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement. "But compromise was necessary to get a health care bill for the American people, and this compromise achieves that.”

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), the author of the first provision on abortion coverage within the House bill, also said she could live with the Nelson compromise.

"This latest compromise is far from perfect but it will allow most middle- and low-income patients to purchase comprehensive health insurance plans, something the House bill language would prevent," she said.

But the compromise was also the target of criticism by abortion-rights opponents, including many Republicans.

"The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in a press conference on Capitol Hill on Saturday.

“The abortion language in this bill funds abortion for the first time since 1977,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). “We are told this is a pro-life bill. It is not.”

"Majority Leader Reid's amendment to the Senate health care bill absolutely fails to meet abortion and life protections that exist in current federal law and policy," said Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life Action. "A vast majority of the American people are opposed to these policies and will make themselves heard loudly over the coming days."

"This so-called 'compromise' includes the accounting gimmicks that we have seen previously proposed," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. "I ask Senators Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) to remember the promises they made to protect the most innocent among us and reject Senator Reid's bill by voting against any procedural motions on the legislation."