WASHINGTON (BP)–After months of deliberations and debate the Senate Finance Committee passed a health care bill Tuesday that critics say would result not only in federal funding of abortions but also in an increase in the number of abortions nationwide.
The bill, sponsored by committee chairman Max Baucus, D.-Mont., passed 14-9, with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine the only Republican voting for it. No Democrats voted against it. It now will be combined with another bill that previously passed another Senate committee and then head to the Senate floor.
Although the bill’s supporters say it would not result in federal funding of abortion, the 259-page bill actually lays out on pages 31-33 how abortion would be covered under the plan. An amendment was defeated on Sept. 30 that would have explicitly prohibited federal funding of abortion. It was sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah.
“We tried to guarantee that federal funding for abortions wouldn’t be allowed under this bill. We were told ‘no,'” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the committee, said in a statement.
Specifically, the bill:
— allows tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies for lower-income people to be used to purchase private insurance plans that cover elective abortions. The bill requires the insurance companies to segregate their internal funds and not use federal dollars to pay for the abortions. Critics call it an accounting gimmick.
— requires that each area of the country provide at least one plan that pays for elective abortions and one plan that does not pay for them.
Pro-lifers argue that if it becomes easier for a woman to pay for an abortion, the number of abortions will go up.
The bill does not include a government-run public option, although it does provide money to set up a consumer-run insurance cooperative. Such cooperatives presumably would be able to cover abortion without restrictions.
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press. The bill can be read online at http://bit.ly/IHupR.