WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Wednesday to ban almost all federally financed abortions provided by the rapidly growing managed-care industry. The compromise measure was immediately attacked by abortion rights groups, which said it would jeopardize access to the procedure by the poor.
The provision, sponsored by Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), was approved by voice vote with almost no debate after being worked out behind the scenes.
The House is expected to consider the measure later this week. In both chambers, the ban is part of a bill financing the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The provision forbids states to use money from the federal-state Medicaid program to purchase managed-care packages that include abortion coverage.
With those same exceptions, Congress has prohibited most federally financed abortions for two decades. The Ashcroft provision for the first time spells out that the stricture applies to managed care, which states are using to cover 40% of low-income Americans under Medicaid.
Abortion rights advocates said the new language would make it harder for states to provide abortions for the poor by forcing officials to create separate bureaucracies for Medicaid.