House passes bill that would prohibit all federal funding of abortion

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would prohibit all federal funding for abortions. The bill was approved by a vote of 251-175.

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” amends the existing Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment currently prohibits most federal funding for abortions.

In a press release, bill sponsor Republican Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey wrote, “one thing is clear: federal funding of abortion will lead to more abortions.”

Smith wrote, “In 2009, there were only 220 government-financed abortions. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the federal government would pay for as many as 675,000 abortions each year without the Hyde Amendment and other provisions that prevent federal funding of abortion.”

The bill, according to Smith, “does not ban abortion. It also does not restrict abortions, or abortion coverage in health care plans, as long as those abortions or plans use only private or state funds. And it places no additional legal restrictions on abortions.”

Smith’s statement said that the bill “simply protects taxpayers from having to fund or subsidize something they morally oppose.”

All House Republicans who voted supported the legislation; they were joined by 16 House Democrats.

The White House strongly opposes the bill. In a policy statement, the administration wrote that the bill “intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increases the tax burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restricts the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule.”

The administration asserts that “longstanding Federal policy prohibits Federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered.” The bill, according to the administration, “goes well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers’ private health care choices.”

Opponents fear that the bill would deny tax credits to companies that allow employees to have abortion coverage on their insurance plans.

In February, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the bill “a violent act against women in and of itself.” Wasserman Schultz, who was officially installed as the new chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Wednesday, joined other pro-choice opponents of the legislation in decrying narrowed exemptions for rape, incest, and the health of a mother.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who was arrested last month at the Capitol protesting against, among other items, a restriction on federal funds for D.C. abortions that was agreed to during the April budget deal, issued a letter Wednesday expressing outrage with the D.C. provision that would limit the use of local government funds.

“The language used in this bill converts the District into a Federal property for the first time in its history,” Gray wrote. “This unprecedented affront to the sovereignty of a local and state government would never be contemplated anywhere else in the United States.”