Franken calls for abortion rights in Senate's health care bill


Sen. Al Franken, who was excoriated by Planned Parenthood of Minnesota in the 2008 campaign for what it called a "misogynist" piece of satire written years before, stepped up to the plate loudly for abortion rights on Monday during an emotional Senate debate on health care reform.

At issue was a proposed amendment, similar to one in the House, that would make it illegal for a private insurance company to cover abortions if that company's policy is purchased with the aid of a federal subsidy. Abortion foes argued the measure upheld long-standing restrictions against federal money being used to fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Franken and other abortion rights supporters said the amendment went beyond that, and would mean denying women coverage for a procedure already covered by many insurance plans.

By late Tuesday, the Senate had rejected the amendment 54-45, helped by Franken and fellow Minnesota DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

"In a perfect world, no woman should have to face the decisions we are discussing today. But the reason we have insurance coverage is to help us deal with the unexpected," Franken said. "Unplanned pregnancies do occur. And we have a responsibility to provide women with the full range of choices regarding their health. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled on this issue and made it clear that women have a constitutional right to access abortion. It's our responsibility to make sure that abortions are safe, legal, and rare."

It's the second time in recent weeks that Franken has taken up traditionally feminist causes. He recently steamed Senate colleagues by forcing them to vote on an amendment that bans the Pentagon from doing business with corporations that prevent employees from suing their employers in cases of sexual assault. The amendment passed 68-30, and some of the 30 Republicans who opposed the measure have been tarred as pro-rape.

When he was running for the U.S. Senate in 2008, Franken took it on the chin from Planned Parenthood and fellow Democrats -- to say nothing of Republicans -- for a raunchy piece of satire he wrote for Playboy magazine years before called, "Porn-O-Rama," and old quotes in which he joked about rape while creating a skit for "Saturday Night Live."