Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Votes for New Limits on Abortions Bill Would Affect Federal Health Insurance

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Votes for New Limits on Abortions Bill Would Affect Federal Health Insurance

Article excerpt

The Senate voted 50-44 Saturday not to pay for abortions for federal workers except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is endangered.

The vote drew an angry response from advocates of abortion rights. More than a million women work for the federal government and rely on federal health insurance.

"We have had a meltdown on women's rights," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. "This is an assault against a woman's right to choose."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, called the action "the first step on a long march to say who controls a woman's reproductive system."

Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said the Senate votes on Saturday "opened the door toward making abortions more difficult and dangerous for all women."

The vote followed an earlier 52-41 decision rejecting a measure that would have barred funding for any abortions for federal employees, unless the mother's life was in danger.

The tide changed after Republican sponsors, led by Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, heeded an appeal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to add rape and incest as exceptions to the proposed abortion bans.

Conrad told the Senate he could not support the measure without the change because his wife was sexually attacked several years ago eight blocks from the Capitol by "a vicious rapist with a record as long as your arm." It would be "vicious and monstrous" to leave no exception for rape and incest, Conrad said.

"Something is radically wrong if someone were to say to my wife, `You carry that baby to term,' " he said.

The Senate voted 49-45 to reject an amendment that would have permitted abortions deemed "medically necessary" after Republicans argued the exception was so broad as to make the ban meaningless.

The House has already endorsed legislation banning the use of tax money to pay for abortions for federal employees under their health plans. …

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