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Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of to the Nelson Amendment.  This amendment needs to be adopted if we truly want to prevent federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions.

I am asking you to support a Democratic amendment.  This isn’t a partisan issue.  It’s a human issue and even if you are on the other side I would hope you could agree that it is not right to force people to pay for a procedure that many find offensive to the core of their morality.  This issue is very personal for many of us.  It is for me. 

When my wife, Diana, gave birth to our daughter Amy she was three-months premature.  She weighed just two pounds and the doctor's advice was, “Wait until morning, see if she lives.” The doctors could do nothing to help this newborn baby.

The next day I took Amy to the hospital in Casper. An ambulance wasn’t available so we went in a Thunderbird. I drove my daughter in a blizzard, the same blizzard that prevented us from flying Amy to Denver to a hospital that could provide better care. 

We took a car from Gillette, Wyoming, to the center of the state, to Wyoming's biggest hospital, to get the best kind of care we could find. We ran out of oxygen on the way, the highway patrol was looking for us, and all along the way, we were watching every breath of that child.

We arrived at the hospital in Casper and put her in the care of the doctors. There were several times when Diana and I went to the hospital to see Amy in her isolette with a shroud around it. We would knock on the window and the nurses would come and say, “It's not looking good. We had to make her breathe again.” Or, “Have you had the baby baptized?”

We had Amy baptized in the first few minutes after birth, but she worked and struggled to live. Watching an infant fight with every fiber of her being demonstrated unquestionably the desire to live, even though she was only six months developed.

Amy survived and is now a teacher so gifted that she teaches other teachers. Amy’s birth changed my whole outlook on life.  It reminded me of the miracle of life and the respect that we owe to that miracle. 

The Reid bill as it is currently does not respect life. But the amendment before us will allow that respect to be given to every American who benefits from the bill.

On September 9th, President Obama told a joint session of Congress: “No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

I agree.  No federal dollars should ever be used to pay for abortions.  To do so otherwise would compel millions of American taxpayers to pay for abortion procedures that they oppose on moral or ethical grounds.

Unfortunately the Reid bill fails to meet the standard set by the President.  Section 1303 of the bill provides the Secretary the authority to mandate and fund abortions.

Some have questioned exactly how this bill funds abortions.  It is quite simple: the bill funds abortions through the government-run insurance option and through subsidies to individuals to help pay for the cost of private insurance.  Both of these options are funded with federal dollars.

Under the community health insurance option (also known as the government run plan), the Secretary of Health and Human Services could allow the plan to cover abortions.   In addition, the new tax subsidies in the bill could also go to private plans that cover abortion.  In both of these cases, federal subsidies would be paid to plans that cover abortion.

The Reid bill attempts to use budget gimmicks, so that its sponsors’ can argue that federal funds will not pay for abortions.  As the only accountant in the Senate, I am not fooled by these gimmicks and neither should anyone else.  If the Reid bill is passed, federal dollars will be used to pay for abortions.

Money is fungible.  That’s an interesting word. That means that federal dollars paid to a health plan can be shifted across accounts.  It can replace other spending, and those dollars can then go to pay for abortions.  There is no way to absolutely prevent federal dollars from paying for abortions once they are paid to plans that cover abortions.

That is why federal laws have explicitly prohibited federal funding going to such plans for the last 30 years.  Federal law currently prohibits funds going to pay for abortions under the Medicaid program, under the FEHBP program that provides health insurance for all federal employees, and the TRICARE program for all of our active duty military and their families.

Current law recognizes that the only way to actually prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion is to offer coverage of abortion in a separate insurance plan and collect separate premiums to pay for that plan.

This is what states who want to cover abortion for their Medicaid populations already do.  As I said earlier, Medicaid is prohibited from using federal dollars to pay for abortions.  As a result, states set up separate plans and collect non-federal dollars in separate accounts to pay for those services.

If anyone has any doubts about the impact of the Reid bill, I would point them to the comments made by senior staff at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Associate Director Richard Doerflinger recently described the Reid bill as “completely unacceptable” and said it was the worst health reform bill they had seen so far on life issues.

It is probably worth it to note that the Bishops have been long time supporters of health reform and covering the uninsured.  Similarly, National Right to Life said the Reid bill “seeks to cover elective abortions in two big new federal health programs, but tries to conceal that unpopular reality with layers of contrived definitions and hollow bookkeeping requirements.” 

There has also been some misinformation out there regarding this amendment and I would like to take a minute to clear up a couple of arguments used against the Nelson amendment. 

First, it does not prohibit individuals from purchasing abortion coverage with their own private dollars.  When similar arguments were made during the House debate on the Stupak language, Politi – Fact, a Pulitzer Prize winning fact checking organization, concluded that such statements were false.  The Nelson amendment only prohibits federal funds from subsidizing those plans.

Some have argued that the Nelson amendment could cause individuals to lose the abortion coverage they currently receive from their current health insurance plans.  That is not accurate.  I would urge everyone to read section 1251 of the bill. 

Section 1251, says clearly and unequivocally that “Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed to require that an individual terminate coverage under a group health plan or health insurance coverage in which such individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of this Act.”

According to the sponsors of this bill, this section protects the ability of persons with existing insurance coverage to keep that same coverage.  If Section 1251 works like its authors describe it, this bill should make no changes to existing insurance plans that cover abortion, and should allow individuals to keep the plans they have.

Some have also said that this amendment will ban abortion procedures.  That too is false.  The amendment does not ban abortions.  It simply prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortions, which is consistent with current law.

Many of my Democrat colleagues have argued during the debate that the healthcare we provide under this bill should be as good as the coverage given to U.S. Senators.  If they really believe that, they should all support applying the same rules regarding abortion coverage that apply to their own health plans.  Federal employee’s plans are prohibited from covering abortion. All federal employees. Not just senators.

I will work hard to see that taxpayers are not compelled to fund abortion services.  I believe those of us in elected office have a duty to work to safeguard the sanctity of human life since the right to life was specifically named in the Declaration of Independence. 

By safeguarding our right to life, our government fulfills its most fundamental duty to the American people.  When that right is violated, we violate our sacred trust with our nation's citizens and the legacy we will leave to future generations. Regardless of what some people think God doesn’t make junk. He makes people in a variety of sizes and shapes and abilities and disabilities. There is a purpose even if we can’t understand it. I like a sign. It’s just outside of Gillette. It says, “If it’s not a baby, you’re not pregnant.”

I do not believe that federal funding should be used to pay for abortions and I will work to ensure it does not happen under this bill.  I will vote in support of the Nelson amendment and encourage my colleagues to do the same to protect life and respect the miracle of life that I witnessed with the birth of my daughter, Amy.

Thank you Mr. President.  I yield the floor.