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Senate bars abortion funds in Indian bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate voted Feb. 26 to prohibit federal funding for abortion as part of an Indian health care bill.

Senators approved the pro-life amendment 52-42, providing a long-term ban on Indian reservations that had been missing in the legislation for Indian health care. The Senate approved the overall bill, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, with an 83-10 vote.

“We are very pleased by the passage of the amendment,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “No person or community benefits from abortion. Abortion kills an unborn child and does great harm in every imaginable way to women. Most American taxpayers do not want to subsidize such destructive activity.

“I hope the American Indian community sees in this restriction our commitment to honor the sanctity of every American Indian life in the same way that we seek to honor the sanctity of life throughout the rest of the United States and the world,” Duke said.

The amendment’s language allows exceptions in the ban for abortions to save the life of the mother or in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest.

The Senate vote fell largely along party lines, with Republicans dominating on the side of the amendment’s passage.

Nine Democrats voted for the amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R.-La. They are Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Three Republicans — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — voted against the amendment.

The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the health care measure, which revises federal law to improve health care services for Indians.

The Senate-approved amendment is similar to the Hyde amendment, first enacted in 1976. The Hyde amendment, named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, prohibits federal funds for most abortions as part of the spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Unlike the Vitter amendment, the Hyde language has to be approved each year as part of the appropriations bill.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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