By John Jalsevac

December 3, 2009 ( – The Senate on Thursday approved the Mikulski amendment by a vote of 61-39.  All Republicans except Senators Vitter, Snowe and Collins voted against the amendment, and all Independents and Democrats except Senators Nelson (NE) and Feingold voted for it.

Pro-life leaders opposed the amendment over concerns that it provides authority that could be used to mandate abortion coverage in private insurance plans. 

Specifically, the amendment states that anything classified as preventive care or screenings for women by the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) would become a mandated covered service.  However, if the HRSA were to recommend abortion as a preventive care, insurance plans would have to cover abortion. 

In a letter to Congress before the vote, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) explained its opposition to the Mikulski amendment: “If Congress were to grant any Executive Branch entity sweeping authority to define services that private health plans must cover, merely by declaring a given service to constitute 'preventive care,' then that authority could be employed in the future to require all health plans to cover abortions.”

“Our concern on this point is not hypothetical,” urged the NRLC letter. “Prominent pro-abortion advocates are already on record discussing abortion as a category of 'preventive health care.'”

In fact, as NRLC points out in its letter, a similar amendment that was proposed in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension was backed by a gamut of pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL. “A July 8, 2009 letter from these groups asserted that by allowing the Health Resources and Services Administration to issue binding guidelines on preventive services, the 'unique preventive health needs of women' would be addressed,” said NRLC.
Pro-life organizations had proposed that the amendment should be modified to ensure that abortion coverage would not be mandated.

Americans United for Life (AUL) attorney Mary Harned wrote that while her group “strongly supports preventative care for women,” “the Mikulski Amendment should be amended to include language prohibiting abortion from being included in the HRSA guidelines.”

However, no such changes were made before the amendment was passed.