The Senate rejected an amendment, Tuesday, that would have tightened rules on the use of federal funding for abortions.
Lawmakers voted 54-45 to reject the Nelson-Hatch amendment, giving abortion supporters a temporary victory sure to spark conflict with the House.
The proposal offered by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch would have blocked public funds from being used to cover abortions under any type of public health care option.
It also sought to bar private insurance companies receiving federal money from covering abortions-- a provision that would have applied to most insurers under the Senate health care bill.
The House had already supported a similar amendment for stricter abortion language. Tuesday's vote now puts the two chambers at odds on the issue.
"I personally believe all children born and unborn are precious gifts from God and we have a moral responsibility to protect them," said Ohio Sen. George Voinovich.
Opponents, however, say the new abortion language is too strict and will limit health care coverage for women, even if they choose their own insurance.
hat's the part of the bill abortion supporters are most upset about.
"It's wrong to single out women and to say to women of this country they can't use their own private funds to purchase insurance that covers the whole range of reproductive health care," Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said.
Because the Nelson-Hatch amendment was partially endorsed by a Democrat, it make it more difficult for party leaders to get the votes they need to pass the Senate health care bill.
Another issue at hand for Senators is whether to include a public option in their version of the bill.