GOP Charges Abortion Deal Leaves Out Indian Country

Posted December 19, 2009 at 10:08am

Senate GOP aides, looking for opportunities to pick apart the Democrats’ health care bill deal, charged Saturday that Indian health care provisions contained in Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) compromise bill do not include key abortion provisions negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

Democrats included “by reference— legislation passed by the Indian Affairs Committee last year covering health care in Indian Country. Under the compromise bill, the language approved by Indian Affairs last year would be deemed passed.

But that version of the bill did not include key abortion provisions prohibiting the federal government from funding abortions. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) ultimately inserted abortion provisions during floor debate — but the bill died in conference largely because of the Vitter language.

Republicans called the language a “huge mistake— and speculated it could cause difficulty for Reid, since it would appear to undercut his deal with Nelson to continue prohibitions on federally funded abortions.

“When you drop major pieces of legislation into a 2,000-page bill simply by reference, you’re going to make mistakes. For advocates of life, this mistake is a huge one,— a GOP aide said.

But a senior Democratic aide said traditional abortion funding limits, known as the Hyde Amendment, would apply.

The legislation “maintains the long-standing practice of applying the same standard for [Indian Health Services] as [Health and Human Services], which is Hyde,— the aide said.

Democratic aides also pointed to specific language in the legislation which they said makes clear that the abortion provisions negotiated with Nelson will apply to the Indian Health Services.

According to the bill, “any limitation pursuant to other Federal laws on the use of Federal funds appropriated to the Service shall apply with respect to the performance or coverage of abortions,— a provision that means the Nelson abortion deal would cover Indian Country, according to Democrats.