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Senate Committee Rejects Stronger Anti-Abortion Language in Health Care Bill

Hatch

Members of the Senate Finance Committee rejected an amendment Wednesday to strengthen anti-abortion provisions on the panel's sixth day of hashing out a health care reform bill.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, whose amendment lost 13 to 10, argued before the panel that tightening is needed to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion.

"I want assurances that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions," said Hatch. "Let's put specific language from my amendment into the bill." The senator argued that women should be required to purchase abortion coverage through unsubsidized, supplemental plans called "riders."

Hatch said he is only looking to "codify" the Hyde amendment, which already prohibits federal funding of abortions, but must be renewed each year.

But a host of Democratic senators were quick to blast Hatch's amendment, calling it "offensive" to women and claiming the proposal seeks to change current law.

Democratic Chairman Max Baucus of Montana said his health care bill before the Senate committee already reflects federal law, which bars funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

"This is a health care bill. This is not an abortion bill. We are not changing current law," he said.

Hatch's amendment would be "a poison for this bill," added Democraitic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington. 

The panel's 12 Democrats as well as Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine defeated the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that the full Senate could start voting on health care legislation in less than two weeks -- possibly beginning the week of Oct. 12, after the Columbus Day holiday.

On Tuesday,  Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa won approval for his legislation that requires members of Congress to access health insurance through the exchange that would be created by the health care reform legislation.  

Committee members reached a unanimous consent to back Grassley's amendment, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning

"The more that Congress experiences the laws we pass, the better the laws are likely to be," Grassley said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The committee on Thursday rejected a separate amendment from Grassley that requires photo identification for federal health benefits.  Grassley argued that his amendment would have helped cut fraud in health care programs for low-income people -- and said it would have required applicants to present a government-issued ID when applying for Medicaid or the children's health care program. 

But Senate Democrats said unscrupulous medical providers -- not beneficiaries -- are usually the ones responsible for fraud, and struck it down by a vote of 13 to 10. 

FOX News' Trish Turner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.