WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a sweeping anti-abortion package to further distance federal funds from the procedure by solidifying existing measures and imposing new ones.
The measures stand little chance of approval by the Senate but again demonstrated the key role social issues still play in unifying the Republican Party.
Dubbed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” the bill was approved along party lines and endorsed by longtime abortion foes and the House Republican leadership, despite arguments that GOP lawmakers should keep a narrow focus on budget and spending issues.
The House bill would permanently place into a law current policies prohibiting federal money from paying for abortions through Medicaid and some other federal programs. The policies, primarily outlined in the decades-old measure known as the Hyde Amendment, must be periodically renewed.
But the bill also goes further to eliminate what supporters say are indirect federal subsidies for abortion providers.
Under the measure, businesses that offer health insurance policies covering abortion could not recoup tax credits under the new health care law. In addition, individuals could not deduct the cost of an abortion when itemizing health expenses on their taxes, nor could they use tax-exempt savings accounts to pay for an abortion.
The bill includes exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother or result from rape or incest.
Similar measures were introduced and defeated during the debate over the health care law in 2009.
As Democrats sought to portray these new provisions as part of an extreme social agenda, many Republicans argued the measure merely reflects the public’s will. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the bill’s sponsor and chief advocate, said he hoped the bill would limit access to abortion.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that ending all public funding for abortion saves lives,” said Smith, a leading congressional abortion foe. “When public funding and facilitation isn’t available for abortion, children have a greater chance for survival.”
Democrats and abortion rights advocates argued the legislation amounts to a tax increase on small businesses. They claimed the tax deduction provision could force victims of rape or incest to have to show proof of the crime to an IRS agent.