Senate Democrats are expected to bring their long-awaited health care reform bill to the floor next week. And just as in the House, which passed its bill last week, senators are divided over the issue of abortion, reports CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes.
The fight over abortion rights has become a thorn in the side of both parties now. It all started when anti-abortion Democrats, led by Michigan's Bart Stupak, began demanding that health care reform include strict new language banning abortion coverage.
"What I'm saying and a number of my Democratic colleagues are saying is no public funding for abortion, period," Stupak said.
Government rules have prohibited abortion coverage in federally funded plans since 1976. Federal workers, Medicaid recipients and women in the military do not have abortion coverage except in extreme cases like rape.
But the health care reform bill creates an unprecedented scenario. Millions of low-income Americans get some federal assistance to help them buy insurance. Stupak's amendment bars any woman who gets even a dollar of federal funding from buying a plan that contains abortion coverage.
"I remember the days of back alley abortions and this amendment takes us one step back to those days," said Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
The amendment passed with the support of 64 Democrats and all but one Republican.
Now the traditionally pro-abortion rights Democratic Party is at a crossroads.
"This is an internal fight, a civil war within the Democratic Party," said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.
That internal fight spilled over into the GOP on Thursday, when Politico revealed that even the Republican National Committee provides coverage for elective abortions in its health care plan.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele swiftly axed the policy, saying, "money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose."
Now a group of female senators is scrambling to find a compromise on abortion funding. But even if they succeed, there are a number of other major issues, like the public option, and how to finance reform, that have Democrats at odds as well.
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