No tax dollars could be used to purchase health insurance plans that cover abortion, including ObamaCare, under legislation passed by the House on Thursday night.
The vote was carried by Republicans, following a forceful debate with Democrats, 251 to 172.
The Protect Life Act would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being used to cover the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services, and was authored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R.-Pa.). Such funding is currently blocked under legislation called the Hyde Amendment, but that bill must be voted on yearly because it is attached to a spending measure.
Democrats argued that the legislation is an attack on a woman’s constitutional right to choose, and although off-topic, complained that the bill does not create a single job.
Republicans countered that tax dollars should not be used for a procedure that many Americans feel strongly amounts to murder of an unborn child, and called Democrats hypocrites for insisting throughout the debate that a jobs bill be brought to the floor, while refusing to co-sponsor President Obama’s jobs act.
“I’m a little appalled at some of the comments I’ve heard, especially some that say talking about jobs is more important than talking about saving lives,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R.-N.C.). “I believe this is a worthy debate for us to be having today. It does not take away any rights from women.”
While the legislation targets elective abortions, tax dollars could still be used for abortions in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said that a vote in favor of the bill means that “women can die on the floor, and health care providers do not have to intervene.”
“It’s just appalling,” Pelosi said at a press conference prior to the vote.
Interestingly, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D.-Fla.), one of the debate managers, argued that male lawmakers should not be involved in the debate on the measure, or have any part in drafting legislation dealing with abortion.
“Congressmen really shouldn’t be even involved in making personal health care decisions for women. That should be between a woman, her family and her doctor,” Hastings said.
Rep. John Fleming (R.-La.), who is also a physician, later countered: “The taking of innocent life is not health care.”
The rhetoric was heated on both sides: Democrats said blocking the use of tax dollars is “extreme and intrusive.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.) called the legislation “absolutely misogynistic,” and said that if it is passed, women would be taken “in shackles to some cave somewhere” for the procedure.
“It just shows how mean-spirited and extreme the legislation is,” Speier said.
Republicans called safe abortion the “ultimate oxymoron.”
“It is ghastly, gruesome, ghoulish and grotesque,” said Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa). “It’s a procedure that degrades our entire culture.”
House Republicans pledged this session to pass a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion, and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion.
“This bill is part of our Pledge to America. We are keeping our word to the American people,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio).
The measure, however, is not expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate, or be signed into law by President Obama.