WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to ban taxpayer funding for abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
The majority Republican House voted 227 to 188 on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” proposed by Rep. Chris Smith,R-N.J.,following much debate on the morals of using federal money for abortion coverage and the availability of insurance plans that cover the procedure.
“It is unfair to force every American to pay for abortion,” Rep. Renee Ellmers,R-N.C.,said. “H. R. 7 is as much about protecting the taxpayer as it is about protecting the unborn.”
Republicans insisted the bill is a permanent version of the 1976 Hyde Amendment,which bans federal money from being spent on abortion. The Hyde Amendment has to be renewed periodically.
Like the Hyde amendment,the bill would allow federally funded abortion only in the cases of rape,incest or danger to the mother’s life.
“Abortion is part of Obamacare,” Rep. Michele Bachmann,R-Minn.,said. “No one should be forced to violate their conscience and pay for abortion.”
Democrats backed the Affordable Care Act’s provision that allows women to get insurance that would cover abortions.
“We are voting to limit health-care provisions,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi,D-Calif.,and House minority leader,said. “This bill is disrespectful of women’s judgment and is a waste of the House’s time.”
Before a bill goes to the House floor,it must go through the Rules Committee,which proposes the final language and must approve any amendments that will be debated by the full House.
Democrats tried to add amendments to the bill at the committee’s meeting Monday evening,but were unsuccessful.
“It’s called the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,’ but it,in fact,has nothing to do with taxpayers and everything to do with chipping away at women’s rights to reproductive health,” Rep. Diana DeGette,D-Colo.,said. She wanted the committee to drop the bill.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler,D-N.Y,questioned why the committee was willing to allow tax-exempt organizations to offer insurance policies that do not cover abortion while businesses have to provide coverage.
“If we adopt this new principle,that granting tax relief is in fact federal funding,then how can tax exemptions for churches not be considered federal funding?” he said. “And how can federal taxes for churches,which is considered federal funding,not be violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment?”
The Obama administration expressed its opposition to the bill hours before the president made his State of the Union address.
“The legislation would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict the District of Columbia’s use of local funds,which undermines home rule,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Reach reporter Caitlin Turner at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.