WASHINGTON — California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said Monday that abortion-rights foes in the U.S. Senate are showing "a lack of respect" for women by promoting legislation that would limit abortions.
"Please don't single out women," Boxer said in a speech on the Senate floor. "What have women done to deserve this? ... Why have such a lack of respect for them?"
Boxer made the remarks as the Senate prepared to vote on an amendment by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska that would prohibit any insurance company from offering plans to cover abortion services if they receive federal subsidies.
In addition, the amendment would block a new government insurance plan from covering abortions except for cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.
The House of Representatives attached a similar amendment to its health care bill last month, and Boxer has emerged as a leader for a group of Democratic women leading the charge to defeat the measure in the Senate.
Nelson and other backers of the legislation say the amendment should be passed because, without it, taxpayer dollars would be used to pay both directly and indirectly for insurance plans that cover abortion.
Boxer said that senators who are supporting the amendment are not trying to limit any medical procedures for men. She said she would not back an amendment to limit Viagra prescriptions to men and that women deserve the same treatment for their reproductive choices.
"All we are saying is please leave it alone," Boxer said, adding that approval of the amendment would result in the biggest rollback of women's reproductive rights in three decades.
Joining Boxer, Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said Nelson's amendment was unnecessary. She said abortion decisions should be made by patients and doctors, not by insurance executives and politicians.
Abortion politics are threatening to derail final passage of a health care bill, which congressional leaders hope to send to President Barack Obama before the end of the year.
In the House, a group of 40 abortion-rights backers is threatening to vote against the legislation if the abortion-limiting language is not removed by a House-Senate conference committee.