House Republicans passed a bill on Thursday, Jan. 22, banning federal funding for abortions, instead of one that would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks.
The legislation would block federal money for nearly all abortions – with the exception of situations when the mother’s life is in danger, incest or rape – as well as tax credits for individuals and employers with such coverage under Obamacare.
The nearly party-line 242-179 vote on Thursday coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and with an annual anti-abortion march that took place at the National Mall in Washington D.C.
“This march is part of a longer one, and our destination is clear: to secure and protect the rights of every unborn child. When there is disagreement, we should pause and listen closely. When there is movement, we should rejoice, and the House’s vote to ban taxpayer funding of abortion is cause for doing so,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio wrote in a statement.
The White House said if the bill makes it to President Barack Obama’s desk, he would likely veto the measure.
Republican House leaders also considered an earlier bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that would have forbid abortions 20 weeks after conception. But many party lawmakers pointed out that the measure could potentially exclude rape victims who did not feel comfortable reporting incidents. Leaders ultimately withdrew the bill due to opposition within the party. Many Republicans who objected, a number of whom were women, said the bill was too restrictive.
The House-approved bill would make permanent the Hyde amendment, a legislative provision forbidding the allocation of specific federal funds – including Medicaid – for abortions, with the exception of cases involving rape and incest. It must be renewed each year.
“For years pro-life Americans have been forced to watch as taxpayers subsidize procedures they are morally opposed to,” Rep. Jacki Walorski (R-Ind.) said on the House floor Thursday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the legislation worsens matters making the amendment permanent.
Democrats said Republican talk about the bill during indicates the GOP is willing to use women’s rights to please crowds.
“Women’s rights should not be theater, it shouldn’t be drama,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), according to the Associated Press.
Abortion rights supporters praised GOP House leaders for scrapping the 20-week abortion bill, but were not pleased with the passage of the bill Thursday.
“I never though I would see the day that the tea party-led House of Representatives would wake up to the fact that their priorities – outright abortion bans – are way out of touch with the American people,” Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said in a written statement.
(With reports from Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today)