The Republican objective to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care legislation by picking off its key provisions has led them to focus on abortion. Only a few hours after the GOP-controlled House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act by a 245-189 vote, Republicans rolled out two bills that would ensure Americans are unable in most cases to receive federal funding for abortions.
The law currently requires women to buy separate insurance policies if they want their coverage to include abortions. Independent fact check groups and Obama maintain that the health care law does not permit funding of abortion through tax subsidies or other means, but GOP members claim the law is flimsy and is open to loopholes for abortion funding.
“The current law says there should be no direct expenditures to abortion,” said Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. “But this is a very useful political issue for them…so they are flexing their muscles to intensify support among their base.”
House Caucus Chairman Chris Smith, a pro-life Republican from New Jersey, unveiled the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which would eliminate tax benefits for any insurance policies covering abortion and write an abortion-blocking amendment, called the Hyde Amendment, which Congress needs to renew every year into law. The Hyde Amendment currently extends to the new health care law via executive order, but Republicans worry Obama could have a change of heart. Currently, the amendment ensures no federal funding is used toward abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is endangered. To help safeguard from Obama changing his mind, Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., introduced the Protect Life Act alongside Smith’s bill, which would stop Obama from removing the executive order.
“The argument is being made that if you take the law and the executive order that even though you’ve got a restriction to direct payments for abortion, it could be politically vulnerable to the president’s change of mind,” said Chuck Donovan, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
The executive order was originally agreed upon by Republicans and Obama after the health reform law passed the Senate without a House-passed Bart Stupak amendment banning taxpayer-funded abortions.
“We had an opportunity during the health care debate to include the Stupak language, which would have made clear—in law—that taxpayer funding of electable abortions is prohibited,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said yesterday. “That did not occur. And clearly there’s an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration really is on this issue.”
Meanwhile, some Democrats are outraged.”This bill goes beyond current law and is a government takeover of reproductive health care,” said Diana DeGette of Colorado. “As Americans struggle to make ends meet and take care of their families, the first priority of this Congress should be to increase jobs – not inject itself into a woman’s constitutionally protected right to choose what is best for her family.”
With GOP Rise, Abortion Foes Gain Confidence (NPR)
GOP Bill Would Block D.C. Abortion Funding (The Washington Post)
Abortion Interjected Into Health Care Reform Repeal (Politico)