The House today approved legislation that will put in place a complete ban on taxpayer funding of abortions that ensures abortions are not directly funded in any federal governmental program or department.
The legislation combines several policies that must be enacted every year in Congressional battles and puts them into law where they will not be in jeopardy of being overturned every time Congress changes hands from pro-life lawmakers to those who support abortions.
The House voted 242-179 for the bill with 239 Republicans and three Democrats voting to ban taxpayer funding of abortions under HR7 while 178 Democrats and one Republican voted against it. [ROLL CALL at end of story.]
Congressman Tom price said during the debate: “This legislation prohibits taxpayer funding of elective abortions, no matter where in the federal system that might occur. This is a position supported by the majority of Americans in a bipartisan manner. We have a responsibility, through our government, to protect the most vulnerable among us, not the least of whom are the unborn. This bill is an important step in the right direction.”
The bill has been around a few years but has only been approved in the House thanks to a pro-abortion Senate. The House voted 227-188 for the bill in 2014 and, on May 4, 2011, the House passed HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, on a 251-175 vote with Republicans voting 235-0 for the bill and Democrats voting 175-16 against it.
Now that Republicans have taken over the Senate from pro-abortion Democrats, the bill is finally expected to receive a vote in the upper chamber.
Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is the lead sponsor of the bill, spoke on the House floor during debate and said it would help hold President Barack Obama accountable by ensuring no taxpayer funds are used to pay for abortions.
A majority of Americans object to the use of taxpayer money for funding abortion, according to numerous polls — including a survey CNN conducted in early April showing Americans oppose public funding of abortion by a margin of 61% to 35%.
The bill will also mitigate concerns about abortion funding in the various loopholes in the Obamacare national health care bill that various pro-life organizations warned about during debate on the law. The legislation did not contain language banning funding of abortions in its provisions and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would fix that problem.
The National Right to Life Committee sent a letter to House members urging support for the legislation that explains how the bill will help:
At the time Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, an array of long-established laws, including the Hyde Amendment, had created a nearly uniform policy that federal programs did not pay for abortion or subsidize health plans that included coverage of abortion, with narrow exceptions. Regrettably, provisions of the 2010 Obamacare health law ruptured that longstanding policy. Among other objectionable provisions, the Obamacare law authorized massive federal subsidies to assist many millions of Americans to purchase private health plans that will cover abortion on demand.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that between 2015 and 2024, $726 billion will flow from the federal Treasury in direct subsidies for Obamacare health plans. In September, 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that confirmed that elective abortion coverage is widespread in federally subsidized plans on the Obamacare exchanges. In the 27 states (plus D.C.) that did not have laws in effect that restrict abortion coverage, over one thousand exchange plans covered abortion, the report found. (See “GAO report confirms elective abortion coverage widespread in Obamacare exchange plans,” http://www.nrlc.org/communications/releases/2014/release091614/)
Some defenders of the Obamacare law originally insisted that this was not really “federal funding” of abortion because a “separate payment” would be required to cover the costs of the abortion coverage. NRLC and other pro-life groups dismissed this as a mere bookkeeping gimmick that sharply departed from the principles of the Hyde Amendment. This discussion of the significance of the “separate payment” has been rendered rather academic, since it has become evident that the Obama Administration is ignoring the two-payment requirement anyway.
During 2013, in the same ignore-the-law mode, the Obama Administration interpreted a provision of Obamacare to authorize the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to collect health care premiums from members of Congress and their staffs, along with subsidies from the legislative branch bureaucracy, for purchase of private health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. The OPM (under instructions from the White House) has gone forward with this plan despite a longstanding law (the Smith Amendment, after sponsor Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ) that explicitly prohibits OPM from spending one penny on administrative expenses connected with the purchase of any federal employee health plan that includes any coverage of abortion (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). The Smith Amendment is the law that continues to prohibit inclusion of abortion coverage in the health plans of over 8 million federal employees and dependents. Yet, according to research conducted by the office of Congressman Smith, of 70 plans now available to members of Congress and congressional staff, 59 cover elective abortions.
H.R. 7 would codify the principles of the Hyde Amendment on a permanent, government-wide basis, with respect both to longstanding federal health programs (Medicaid, SCHIP, FEHB, etc.) and to the new programs created by the Obamacare law. Under H.R. 7, for plan years beginning after December 31, 2015, exchange-participating health plans that cover abortion would not be eligible for the federal subsidies. Until then, the bill will revise Obamacare language to eliminate secrecy about abortion coverage, allowing consumers to be fully informed about abortion coverage and the surcharges for such coverage on plans sold on the exchanges.
Among the longstanding provisions to be codified by H.R. 7 is the “D.C. Hyde Amendment,” which is the prohibition on the use of government funds to pay for abortion in the Federal District (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest), which for decades (with brief interruptions) has been part of the annual appropriations bill that covers the District. Most of the objections to this policy misconstrue or misrepresent the constitutional status of the District of Columbia. Under the Constitution, the District is exclusively a federal jurisdiction. Article I says that Congress alone exercises “exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the Federal District. “Non-federal funds” are a fiction, because under current federal law, all government funds in the Federal District are governed by the federal appropriations bills.
A Member’s vote on H.R. 7 will essentially define his or her position, for or against federal funding of abortion, for the foreseeable future.
Pro-life groups including Americans United for Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, Liberty Counsel and Family Research Council also support the legislation.
HOW DID YOUR MEMBERS VOTE?
Below is the vote on the pro-life bill to stop abortion funding. A yes vote is a pro-life vote for the bill, a no vote is a pro-abortion vote against it. Democrats are listed in italics, Republicans in plain font.
—- AYES 242 —
Johnson, E. B.
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Sánchez, Linda T.