Lawmakers on Wednesday sparred publicly on one of the most hotly contested issues of the 112th Congress – taxpayer funding of abortion – ahead of a vote scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and about a dozen Republican House members and antiabortion advocates rallied at a news conference in support of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The measure, authored by Smith and co-sponsored by 227 House members, is expected to pass the House Wednesday afternoon.
“Today we seek to end taxpayer complicity in abortion violence,” Smith said Wednesday at a Capitol news conference. “No taxpayer should be coerced to pay, subsidize or facilitate the dismemberment, chemical poisoning, starvation or suctioning to death of a child and the harming of a woman.”
The bill would do away with tax breaks for insurance providers that cover abortion and would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding for abortions in all federal programs. The amendment is typically renewed annually by Congress.
Democrats and abortion rights advocates have contended that federal law already bans taxpayer money from directly paying for abortion services, and that H.R. 3 would amount to a tax increase on individuals and insurance providers that cover abortion.
“Federal funding for abortion care has been prohibited for more than 30 years,” said Reesa Kossoff, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s assistant director for media strategy and outreach. “This bill imposes a series of tax increases on many individuals and small businesses in an effort to end private insurance coverage of abortion care.”
The measure would also reinstate a ban on the District using its own tax money to cover abortion services; the D.C. Council on Tuesday penned a letter to House leaders opposing the bill, and the group D.C. Vote is holding a protest against H.R. 3 later Wednesday afternoon.
Smith and other supporters of H.R. 3 said at Wednesday’s news conference that while the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal in the United States, polling shows that Americans remain strongly apposed to taxpayer money going toward insurance providers that cover abortion.
“Abortion is not health care,” said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), sponsor of another abortion-related measure titled the “Protect Life Act.” “Abortion is the most violent form of death known to mankind.”
Some House members have suggested that as a way of forcing a vote on H.R. 3 in the Senate, the measure could be paired with a vote on raising the country’s debt ceiling. That strategy would resemble the one used by House Republicans this year in linking a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood to the measure on keeping the federal government funded for the rest of the fiscal year.
Smith said Wednesday that he had not considered such a strategy but that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) soon would be introducing companion legislation to H.R. 3 in the Senate.
“We’re going to make a very, very significant effort for a Senate vote and hopefully affirmation of this,” Smith said.