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By Peter J. Smith

Washington, D.C., September 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Senate Finance Committee torpedoed two key pro-life amendments on Wednesday designed to prevent government-subsidies of abortion and guarantee conscience protections for health-care providers in the health-care reform bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) proposed to amend the “America's Health Future Act of 2009” under consideration by the Finance Committee led by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). His amendments would have codified current conscience protections for health-care providers with moral objections to abortion and also made permanent the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from paying for abortions.

Hatch instead proposed that women could purchase additional coverage for abortions through “riders” that would not be subsidized by the government.

However, the amendments were rejected by the Committee by votes of 13 – 10. In both amendments, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) joined committee Republicans in support of the measures, while pro-abortion Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) joined Baucus' committee Democrats to vote against the bill.

As it stands, the Baucus legislation permits the federal government to mandate the inclusion of abortions in the “minimum benefits package” for health-insurers participating in the “Health Insurance Exchange.”

As long as the Hyde Amendment is renewed the federal government cannot directly subsidize health-care plans from taxpayer funding of the federal Health and Human Services Department.

But if Congress failed to renew the Hyde amendment, then health-care co-ops and private plans could be required to cover elective abortions.

“While Senator Hatch's abortion funding amendment would keep government federal funds from paying for abortion or plans that cover abortion, it clearly stated that it would not prevent women from obtaining their own separate abortion policies if they choose to do so,” stated Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.

“And instead of codifying existing law protecting conscience rights for plans and providers, these same Senators voted to undermine current law by rejecting Senator Hatch's conscience protection amendment on abortion,” continued Perkins.

“This isn't the status quo, it's a pro-abortion expansion.”

Current polling shows that the vast majority of the American people want pro-life proposals like the Hatch Amendment in any health-care reform to ensure that federal funds do not subsidize abortion.

According to a poll commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, sixty-eight percent of American voters do not want their own policy, whether public or private, to include abortion coverage. Sixty-three percent also favor preserving conscience protection laws.

The USCCB poll last week found that among those favoring health-reforms that make coverage universally available and affordable, sixty percent oppose government funding for plans that include abortion.

The poll reflects the conclusions obtained from earlier polling done by Public Opinion Strategies (August 30-September 1) for the Susan B. Anthony List and Rasmussen Reports (September 14-15) on health care policy and abortion.

At the moment, the Senate Finance Committee has been voting on a draft of health-care reform written in “plain English” – which will change after the bill is translated into “legislative language.”

Baucus has balked at proposals from his committee to require the final draft of the bill be posted on the internet 72 hours in advance of the vote, claiming that it would take his staff two weeks to do that.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) proposed that the public have 72 hours to examine the final language of the $900 billion health care reform bill along with a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the committee's website before the vote.

However, the measure was narrowly rejected 12-11.

With the Finance Committee's work nearing completion, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated on Wednesday that voting on health care legislation could begin right after Columbus Day, October 12. 

See previous coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:

Pro-Life Leaders Warn Obama Still Not Honest About Health Care Abortion Funding 

Law Prof: Pro-Abortion Health Care Overhaul Spells Danger for Catholic Hospitals 

Abortion in Health Care “Way Beyond my Field”: Cardinal Mahoney 

Obama Approval Numbers Still Dropping, While Petitions Mount Against Health Care Plan 

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