Abortion debate underlies U.S., state controversies

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sen. Ben Nelson missed the chance to take the credit or blame for killing the Senate health care bill, which passed by the minimum 60 votes necessary to advance to floor debate.

Still, he joins others like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut in warning that he won't vote for the bill in its current form.

Nelson doesn't favor the "public option" and opposes the Medicare cuts that will be made to fund the bill, and many Senators doubt it would cut the deficit as advertised, and worry that it will require many of us to buy health insurance that's more expensive than what we already have.

But it's the possibility that taxpayer dollars will go to pay for abortion that may be the tipping point in the whole debate. Abortion opponents aren't likely to go along with the Senate bill's provisions that allow abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans, provided that only private funds are used to pay for such coverage.

The abortion debate played out in Nelson's home state this weekend as well, with University of Nebraska Regents voting 4-4 to impose new limits on stem cell research at the university -- which will allow such research to continue.

Pro-life officials warned that Jim McClurg, who said he remained anti-abortion while voting to allow stem cell research, had lost "a huge base of support" by his vote.

McClurg said he felt he could vote against the restriction in part because a state law passed last year that bars the use of state facilities to create or destroy embryos used for research.

University President J.B. Milliken said the proposed restrictions would "have limited our ability to save lives and improve lives and would have had a negative impact on the university's ability to recruit and retain faculty."

In times of tight state budgets, however, a university that insists on pursuing controversial research would make an easy target for those opposed to that research.

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