WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the U.S. bishops' conference is calling the Senate's move to table an amendment that would prevent federal money from funding abortion "a serious blow" to health care reform.

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said this today after the Senate voted 54-45 on Monday to kill the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment proposed by senators Ben Nelson, Orrin Hatch and Robert Casey.

A similar measure was passed in the House of Representatives, paving the way for the passage there of the "Affordable Health Care for America Act."

"The Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion," Cardinal George said.

"While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation," he added. "Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent."

Fundamental flaw

Bishop William Murphy, chair of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called the Senate's failure to keep abortion out of health care reform the "legislation’s fundamental flaw."

"The nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all," he noted.

Bishop Murphy affirmed that the bishops will continue to work with Congress and the Obama administration "to achieve reform which meets these criteria," and added the need to also address "serious problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of immigrants.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the Senate to "separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding."

"Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply," he said. "The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation."

"That is what the House did and what the final bill must do," the cardinal added. "The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form."