U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today said the Senate missed an important opportunity to protect the unborn when an amendment he cosponsored to bar taxpayer funding of abortion in the pending health care bill was rejected.
The bipartisan amendment, authored by Senators Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was defeated through a procedural motion by a vote of 54 -- 45.
"For more than 30 years, taxpayer funding of abortion has been prohibited," Wicker said. "This is a policy that is supported by most Mississippians and a majority of Americans. Any health reform legislation that is enacted by Congress must include this important provision to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortion. Unfortunately, with the defeat of this amendment, the Senate Democrats' health care bill allows for taxpayer funds to be used to purchase abortion coverage."
The amendment would have extended to the Senate Democrats' health care bill a long-standing federal provision known as the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment was first implemented by Congress in 1976. The provision's abortion funding prohibition extends to federal programs such as CHIP, Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Services, Veterans Health, military health care programs, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Wicker said the amendment had the backing of leading pro-life advocates, including the National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
During consideration of the health care bill in the House of Representatives last month, a similar amendment was approved by a vote of 240-194.
According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, six in 10 Americans favor a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. In a similar finding, a Washington Post poll released last month found that 61 percent of respondents support barring coverage of abortions for those who would receive taxpayer subsidies under health care legislation before Congress.
The amendment was also cosponsored by Senators Robert Casey, D-Pa., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., David Vitter, R-La., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.