Nelson: Court decision vindicates on abortion funding

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December 1st, 2010

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Nelson says a court decision proves the new healthcare law does not allow federal funding of abortions (Photo courtesy U.S. Senate)

Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson says his position that the new health care law does not allow federal funding for abortion is supported by a recent court decision. But a leader of a Nebraska pro-life group remains skeptical.

Nelson had long been supported by pro-life groups before the health care law passed. But they reacted strongly when, after the Senate rejected anti-abortion language they favored, Nelson got his own language inserted into the bill. Now, Nelson says a federal court decision issued Tuesday vindicates the argument that his language also prohibits federal funds from going to abortion.

“With the various different special interest groups that raised a ruckus about the language,” he said, “and are out there scaring everybody saying that the bill and the new law will require federal money to be spent for abortions or permit it, they’re just wrong.”

The decision came in a case brought by Liberty University against the new law. Among the arguments, the plaintiffs claimed that the law violates their religious freedom by forcing them to support abortions. In his decision, federal District Judge Norman Moon rejected that claim. Moon wrote that the law “contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services beyond those in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the woman would be endangered.” Those exceptions are also contained in the Hyde Amendment banning Medicaid funded abortions, which is supported by pro-life groups. Julie Schmit-Albin of Nebraska Right to Life said she hasn’t read the decision yet. But she said pro-life groups have not changed their mind about Nelson’s position.

“Senator Nelson can continue to cling to what he does and what he says,” she said, “but I prefer to rely on those people who deal with abortion case law and statutes day in and day out. That’s their job, such as National Right to Life. And they continue to concur that he’s in error.”

Late Wednesday, Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life said he has read the decision, and he thinks Judge Moon is overstating the law’s restrictions. Johnson said many other provisions of the law do authorize federal funding of abortions.

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