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House passes bill to bar federal funds for abortion

Participants in an anti-abortion rally hold signs that read “Stop Abortion Now” as they listen to speakers, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Participants in an anti-abortion rally hold signs that read “Stop Abortion Now” as they listen to speakers, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Emboldened by a Republican in the White House, the GOP-led House on Tuesday backed legislation that would permanently bar federal funds for any abortion coverage.

The measure, which passed 238-183, would also block tax credits for some people and businesses buying abortion coverage under former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Republicans passed a similar bill in 2015 under veto threat from Obama and the legislation went nowhere.

Days into the new all-GOP monopoly in Washington, Republicans are moving aggressively on anti-abortion legislation as well as targeting elements of the health care law. The GOP figures the bill would have a better chance under new President Donald Trump, a Republican and an abortion opponent. But it would have to first get through the Senate, where it would need 60 votes and face considerable Democratic opposition.

The House vote was timed to come just after the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States and ahead of Friday’s march against abortion.

“Pro-life Americans struggle for the day when abortion violence will be replaced by compassion and empathy for women and respect for weak and vulnerable children in the womb,” said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., who sponsored the original bill.

If signed into law, the bill would permanently ban the use of federal money for nearly all abortions – a prohibition that’s already in effect but which Congress must renew each year.

It would also go further. The bill would bar individuals and many employers from collecting tax credits for insurance plans covering abortion that they pay for privately and purchase through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats said that the legislation would unfairly target low-income women.

“This bill is about taking women who can’t afford an abortion, and not allowing them to use taxpayer money to get it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

The legislation comes a day after Trump reinstituted a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions.

That ban has been a political volleyball, instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984. Most recently, President Barack Obama ended the ban in 2009.

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