AU Praises Senate Vote Against Nelson-Hatch Amendment

Health-Care Reform Package Should Not Reflect Religious Doctrine, Says Church-State Watchdog Group

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended the U.S. Senate for rejecting a religion-based amendment to the health-care reform bill that would have limited women’s access to abortion.

By a 54-45 vote, the Senate tabled the Nelson-Hatch amendment, which would have eliminated abortion coverage from insurance plans that receive federal funds, even if the coverage is paid for with private funds. The proposal, promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is similar to a controversial amendment added to the health-care bill in the House at the behest of the church hierarchy.

The Catholic bishops and allied Religious Right forces are lobbying aggressively to enshrine their doctrines about abortion in the health-care reform package.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “I am glad the Senate defeated this proposal. Health-care legislation should be based on the needs of the American people, not the doctrines of powerful religious interest groups.

“Women should be free to make decisions about reproductive health based on their own consciences, not the political decrees of church hierarchies,” Lynn continued. “Religious dogma must never be imposed through force of law.”

In a Dec. 7 legislative alert, Americans United urged religious liberty activists to contact their senators and oppose the “unacceptable” amendment introduced by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Said AU, “We simply cannot allow the interests of a politically powerful religious denomination to undermine the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to Americans of all faiths and none.” 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.