By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 18, 2009 ( – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to unveil the Senate's version of the Democrat health care overhaul Wednesday evening following weeks of shaky attempts at securing a clear majority of votes against the GOP's promised procedural filibuster.  The bill is not expected to include a version of the Stupak/Pitts amendment, whose popular acceptance continues to be the subject of a fierce power struggle between pro-life and pro-abortion forces.

Reid said he feels “cautiously optimistic” that he will have enough votes to start debate on the bill.  Because Democrats control exactly 60 seats in the Senate, they have no margin for error if all Republican Senators attempt to block the bill's introduction with a filibuster.  Even moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who frequently breaks with the party line, has agreed to support a filibuster that could occur as early as Thursday.

If the bill comes to a debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Politics Daily Tuesday that he plans to introduce a ban on federal abortion funding similar to the House's Stupak/Pitts amendment. 

However, it is unclear whether Hatch's amendment will fully reflect the Hyde-amendment restrictions contained in the House counterpart.  When asked if his amendment would mirror Stupak's amendment, Hatch said: “I think so, I think that's a fair appraisal.”

Hatch predicted, as has been generally predicted, that support for the pro-life amendment will not be as strong in the Senate as it was in the House.  “It will be much more difficult in the Senate,” he said. “There are so few [Democrats] you can really turn to.”  Hatch had unsuccessfully attempted to insert pro-life amendments in the bill in both the Senate Finance Committee and in the Health, Education and Labor and Pensions Committee.

Pro-life leaders such as the Family Research Council are calling on voters to deluge Senators with calls to vote against cloture on the bill, which would block its entrance into the Senate.  “The ideal would be to shut down Senate phone lines,” said pro-life commentator Jill Stanek in a WorldNetDaily column.

Meanwhile, the Center for Reproductive Rights has launched an advertisement online and on Washington D.C. cable markets implying that the Stupak amendment threatens to deprive women of abortion coverage.  “Some in Congress are trying to use the reform to ban insurance coverage for abortion services, coverage that millions of women have today,” the Center's website claims.

Pro-life leaders respond by pointing out that the Stupak amendment does nothing beyond restoring the decades-old restrictions on federal funding for most abortions already found in the Hyde amendment.

“The president says this shouldn't be an abortion bill,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told CBS News. “That's kind of one of those focus group statements that is kind of meaningless. If he meant that, he should be for the Stupak amendment, because the Stupak amendment takes abortion out [of the health care bill].”

** Late addition to this story: The Stupak-Pitts language is NOT reflected in the now public Senate bill. Instead a variation on the Capps amendment is included.  In fact, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) has already issued a statement saying, “It appears their [Reid] approach closely mirrors my language which was originally included in the House bill.”

The Reid/Capps language explicitly authorizes the Secretary to include abortion in the public option and the Reid/Capps language permits government subsidies for plans that pay for abortion. Strongly pro-abortion Senator Boxer has also given her endorsement to the language saying, “Senator Reid did an excellent job of crafting language….”  See the entire bill with relevant abortion language on pages 116 through 124.

Click here to contact Senators via the National Right to Life Committee's resource.

See related coverage:

Analysis: Abortion Funding in Senate Health-Care Bill Stuck Between Reid and a Hard Place 

Updated: Pro-Life Leaders React to Health Bill Outcome: Caution Outweighs Celebration

Updated: Analysis: The Threats to Pro-Life Values Remaining in the U.S. House Health Care Bill