Watching the Senate Bill

The U.S. bishops’ conference’s Richard Doerflinger finds much to dislike about the Senate version of health-care reform that will get a preliminary vote tomorrow night.

Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told AP today that the Senate bill “is actually the worst bill we’ve seen so far on the life issues.” Doerflinger called it “completely unacceptable.”

According to National Public Radio, the measure bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in certain cases, and forbids including abortion coverage as a required medical benefit. However, it would allow coverage through the so-called public option (a public insurance plan that people would be able to choose over private insurers) and allow private insurers that receive federal subsidies to offer plans that include abortion coverage — in both cases, as long as no government money is used.

But the Family Research Council finds that on pages 116-124 of the 2000-plus-page bill, the legislation authorizes the secretary of Health and Human Services to fund abortion in the public option, offers tax credits to private plans that cover abortion on demand, and abolishes conscience protections for health providers who refuse to perform abortions.

“It even goes so far as to insist that a plan to cover abortion must be available in every U.S. district,” a press release from the Family Research Council states.

Americans United for Life finds that the Senate bill does not include the Stupak-Pitts amendment from the House bill, which would prohibit federal funding of abortion, except in the case of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life. 

In addition, the Family Research Council finds that although the Senate version would partially restore Title V abstinence funding, it also contains a push for “comprehensive” sex education, as well.

Another point the council brings up: The plan would inflict an additional 0.5% payroll tax on married couples making more than $250,000 a year in wages. Cohabiting couples, though, are free to make $200,000 each before getting hit with the same tax.

Tomorrow night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will seek to muster 60 votes to begin debate on the legislation. If he succeeds, debate could go on for weeks. The Register will be following it.

—John Burger