On Monday, the House Rules Committee voted 9-3 to approve a closed rule (H Res 237) that allows the House to consider legislation (HR 3) that would permanently ban federal funding for abortion services, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The bill would block federally employed medical professionals and federal medical facilities from providing abortion services. In addition, it would restrict Washington, D.C.'s use of funds for abortion services and implement conscience protections for health care providers that do not provide abortion services.
The closed rule includes language for automatic adoption of a substitute amendment using language from a related bill (HR 1232), which would block women from deducting the cost of abortions as a medical expense and ban tax credits in the overhaul for insurance that covers abortion.
During the panel's debate on the measure, Republicans said the legislation would merely codify the Hyde amendment and guarantee that tax money is not used to pay for abortion services.
However, Democrats countered that the legislation goes beyond the Hyde amendment, and characterized the provisions as tax penalties on individuals who choose to have abortions.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said, "This bill isn't about funding, though that's how it's being sold," adding, "It's about limiting access to abortion for women" (Attias, CQ HealthBeat, 5/3).
Dave Jones Weighs In
On Tuesday, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) sent a letter urging California's congressional delegation to vote against the abortion bill.
Jones wrote, "Currently, the vast majority (87%) of employer-based private health insurance plans cover abortion services. This bill is clearly an attempt to prevent those who purchase private health insurance from continuing to have abortion coverage."
Jones added that the bill would negatively affect small businesses, which would lose access to tax credits unless they stop offering abortion coverage ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/3).
Prospects for Passage
The bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate. In addition, the White House already has said that President Obama will veto it (CQ HealthBeat, 5/3).