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Nelson Under Fire for Abortion Deal

A Nebraska anti-abortion group is blasting Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) over a deal on abortion provisions included in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care overhaul bill, accusing Nelson of “betraying” the organization.

Under the agreement negotiated Friday between Nelson and Reid, states would be allowed to opt out of insurance plans that cover abortions, and the state insurance exchanges created by the legislation would have to offer at least one plan that does not cover abortions. Enrollees using plans that do cover abortion would pay for their insurance using two separate checks — one to cover abortions and a second for the rest of their insurance.

In a statement released by Nebraska Right to Life, Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin charges that during a “courtesy” phone call Friday night with Nelson and his chief of staff, Tim Becker, the lawmaker claimed the language would satisfy anti-abortion groups and “would pass pro-life muster,” but the organization could not review the provisions beforehand.

“Senator Nelson claimed that their newly-drafted concepts/language was Stupak-plus and that it would pass pro-life muster. When I countered that we had no assurance of that because we were not allowed to review the language, I was reminded that this was merely a courtesy call, not a call for our input or approval,” Schmit-Albin said.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) negotiated anti-abortion language included in the House health care reform bill — and on Saturday came out against Nelson’s deal with Reid.

Schmit-Albin went on to argue that the language did not live up to Nelson’s promises and expressed disappointment in his decision.

“Senator Nelson had a chance to ensure that the longstanding principle of the Hyde Amendment against federal funding of abortion with narrow exceptions, would be placed in the Senate healthcare legislation. He dashed any hope of that with his late-night agreement with Sens. Reid, [Barbara] Boxer [D-Calif.] and [Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] on unacceptable language that he claimed would address pro-life concerns,” she said.

Schmit-Albin made a not-so-veiled threat to hold the agreement — and Nelson’s votes on the bill — against him during his next election.

“NRL Political Action Committee gave Senator Nelson a sole endorsement in his re-election race in 2006 based on his record and actions both as Governor and Senator. It is a very sobering day for myself personally and for pro-lifers across Nebraska and the nation. Senator Nelson obliterated the hope of pro-life Americans who saw him as the last man standing between expansion of government funding of abortion,” she said, adding that, “Nebraska Right to Life follows the lead of National Right to Life in opposing the passage of healthcare legislation containing such bogus abortion language and looks forward to [National Right to Life Council’s] scoring of all cloture votes on the issue.”

A Nelson spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

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