By Meghan McCarthy, NationalJournal
Published May 4, 2011
The House passed sweeping abortion legislation on Wednesday, pushing a smorgasbord of anti-abortion policy goals one step closer to law.
The bill, which passed 251-175, won’t be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate, but could be used as a political weapon by Republicans to force moderate Democrats to take a tough vote on the emotional issue. All House Republicans voted in support of the bill, along with 16 Democrats. The White House issued a veto threat on the legislation on Monday.
Democrats couched the legislation as a hit to small businesses, because the bill would rescind tax credits for smaller employers included in the health law if their insurance plans cover abortions. Most private insurance plans cover medically-necessary procedures.
“Even if a small business owner were to agree with the intent, the cost in time, money, and continuity of the policy is very significant,” wrote Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday.
The legislation ultimately aims to ban any type of federal funding or incentive for abortions, even if those dollars are indirectly used for the legal medical procedure.
It would make permanent a ban on federal dollars being used for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnancy could prove fatal. Traditionally, language known as the “Hyde Amendment” is included annually in spending bills barring federal dollars from paying for abortions. The bill also includes a permanent ban on allowing the District of Columbia to use its own funds to cover abortions.
The bill also goes after the health care reform law, making it more difficult for women to get insurance policies on state-based exchanges if the policy includes abortion coverage. The legislation would specifically prohibit insurance plans that receive government subsidies from covering abortions on the exchange, but opponents say that will lead to insurance companies dropping all abortion coverage to gain access to the exchanges.
The legislation would also eliminate certain tax benefits for women who have medically necessary abortions. For example, women could not use a tax-free contribution to their health savings account to cover an abortion procedure.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the legislation was a “dangerous bill that goes far beyond any other proposal ever introduced in Congress to take comprehensive health care coverage away from women.”