The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would expand restrictions on federal abortion funding, after a contentious floor debate among leaders of both parties.
The measure, H.R. 3, passed on a 251-to-175 party line vote, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans present to vote “aye.” The bill would eliminate tax breaks for insurance providers that cover abortion services and would codify a federal provision prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions in all federal programs.
The bill is the latest considered by the Republican-led House to target abortion funding. In February, the lower chamber approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) that would defund Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. (That provision ultimately was not included in the final budget deal negotiated by the White House and congressional leaders. A Senate vote rejecting stripping funds from Planned Parenthood was included as part of the deal.)
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) has introduced a separate measure, the “Protect Life Act,” that has garnered 142 co-sponsors. The bill would prevent federal funding from being withheld from institutions that refuse to provide abortions and would also prohibit funding for abortions under the national health-care law.
In Wednesday’s floor debate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) argued that the bill “represents an unprecedented and radical assault on women’s access to the full range of health care services.”
“For the first time, this bill places restrictions on how women with private insurance can spend private dollars in purchasing health insurance,” she said. “This bill will deny tax credits for women who buy the type of health insurance that they currently have – health insurance that covers a full range of reproductive care.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) defended the measure in a floor speech, saying that Republicans were keeping their word to the American people.
“A ban on taxpayer funding for abortion is the will of the American people and ought to be the law of the land,” Boehner said. “But the law, particularly as it is currently enforced, does not reflect the will of the American people. This has created additional uncertainty given that Americans are concerned not just about how much we’re spending, but how we’re spending it.”
The D.C. Council and other groups had also opposed the measure, arguing that it infringes on the District’s right to self-governance by prohibiting D.C. funds from going to abortion services.
The measure has an uncertain future. Democratic leaders in the Senate are unlikely to bring it up for a vote, and President Obama has issued a veto threat. Some Republicans have raised the possibility of attaching the measure to a vote to raise the country’s debt ceiling, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), said he has not yet spoken with Republican leaders about doing so.