NPR logo Senate Kills Sen. Nelson's Abortion-Funding Ban Amendment

Senate Kills Sen. Nelson's Abortion-Funding Ban Amendment

The Senate Tuesday afternoon voted 54-45 to kill Sen. Ben Nelson's amendment to the health-care overhaul legislation that would have banned the use of federal taxpayer money for abortions.

(Here's the amendment. Search on the word "abortion" to find it midway down the page.)

As Korva reported Monday, the amendment would have prevented women who bought health insurance with the help of government subsidies from buying into a plan that included abortion coverage.

In addition to Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who's a center-right member of a more liberal party, the failed abortion amendment was also supported by Democrat Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania who opposes abortion as well.

Nelson has indicated that he would need whatever final health-care overhaul legislation the Senate finally achieves to contain a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions.

So the failure of his amendment raises questions as to whether Senate Democrats will be able to secure the 60 votes they need to pass the legislation. But as NPR's Julie Rovner explains in a report she filed for the network's newscast, language that would meet Nelson's requirement could emerge in other forms as the debate and negotiations continue:

ROVNER: By a 54-45 vote, senators who support abortion rights turned back the efforts of those who oppose abortion to include in the bill the same language added during House consideration of the health measure. Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson said the amendment simply tracks current policy, which prevents federal funding of abortion.

NELSON: Taxpayers shouldn't be required to pay for other people's abortions. It's just that simple.

ROVNER: But opponents said the bill already bans federal abortion funding and that Nelson's amendment would also restrict the types of policies women can buy using their own money.

The vote doesn't end the controversy, however. The abortion language could be revisited in a package of amendments needed to win the 60 votes necessary to get the bill to a final Senate vote.