Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, whose amendment lost 13 to 10, argued before the panel that tightening is needed to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion.
"I want assurances that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions," said Hatch. "Let's put specific language from my amendment into the bill." The senator argued that women should be required to purchase abortion coverage through unsubsidized, supplemental plans called "riders."
Hatch said he is only looking to "codify" the Hyde amendment, which already prohibits federal funding of abortions, but must be renewed each year.
But a host of Democratic senators were quick to blast Hatch's amendment, calling it "offensive" to women and claiming the proposal seeks to change current law.
Democratic Chairman Max Baucus of Montana said his health care bill before the Senate committee already reflects federal law, which bars funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
"This is a health care bill. This is not an abortion bill. We are not changing current law," he said.