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House GOP Introduces Bills to Bar Most Taxpayer Funding of Abortion

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House Speaker John Boehner said he wanted to be "the most pro-life speaker ever" and on Thursday the Ohio Republican showed how he plans do that by hailing new bills aimed at barring federal funds from paying for abortions.

The most ambitious legislation is the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a measure that again reprises the health care reform battle from the last Congress when disputes over abortion funding played a crucial role. Only this new bill would go further than anything ever considered by Congress because it would make the so-called Hyde Amendment permanent and applicable across the entire federal budget.

"This common-sense legislation reflects the will of the people and deserves the support of the House," Boehner said at a press conference on Thursday, flanked by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a longtime abortion opponent and chief sponsor of the new bill. "It is one of our highest legislative priorities. As such, I have directed that it receive the designation of H.R. 3."

The Hyde Amendment, approved in 1976, is named after the late Illinois Republican Henry Hyde. It prevents the federal government from using tax money to fund abortions through Medicaid, which is appropriated through the budget of the Health and Human Services Department. Congress passes the Hyde Amendment as a matter of course every year, but abortion opponents have been looking for an opportunity to make it permanent and apply it more broadly.

The backlash over health care reform provided that chance, and H.R. 3 -- along with related bills in the pipeline -- is the result.

The health care reform bill that passed the House last year included the so-called Stupak amendment that explicitly barred the use of taxpayer dollars from funding abortion coverage. It carries the name of then-Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, a pro-life representative whose support for the bill was crucial in drawing backing from other conservative Democrats.

But the Senate health care measure did not have the same explicit abortion funding ban -- though most experts said the Senate version also would not allow such funding. Because of Republican filibuster threats, the Senate bill became the final version, and Stupak and others went along with it after President Obama issued an executive order reiterating that no federal funds would be allowed to pay for abortions under health care reform.

Republicans and anti-abortion activists still argued that the reform measure was a "massive" and "unprecedented" taxpayer subsidy for abortion providers, and they campaigned hard on that theme last fall with a pledge to either repeal health care altogether or to pass a bill plugging the purported streams of abortion funding. That helped push Republicans to the majority in the House and resulted in the defeat or forced retirement -- as in Stupak's case -- of half the 40 or so pro-life Democrats in Congress

At Thursday's press conference, Boehner again disputed Democratic claims that the health care reform law does not provide for abortion funding and that the new bill is not necessary.

"[W]e had an opportunity during the health care debate to include the Stupak language, which would have made clear -- in law -- that taxpayer funding of electable abortions is prohibited," Boehner said. "That did not occur. And clearly there's an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration really is on this issue. I think that the will of the people is there will be an act that's clear cut -- a prohibition -- on the use of taxpayer funds for electable abortions."

Pro-choice groups derided H.R. 3 as "Stupak on steroids" and said it showed the new Republican leadership in the House is putting the fight against abortion rights over efforts to create jobs.

"They are out of touch with our country's values and priorities," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "What happened to the jobs agenda? How many people will be employed as part of their campaign to attack a woman's right to choose?"

Thursday's back-and-forth is only the first salvo in what is expected to be a long-running battle over abortion during the next two years.

Also on Thursday, GOP Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania introduced the "Protect Life Act," which would amend specifically the health care reform law to ensure there is no funding for abortion or abortion coverage.

Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski is a co-sponsor of the Smith bill, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," and it is possible either that bill or the Pitts legislation could garner more support than Wednesday's party-line vote to repeal the entire health care package. That vote, the GOP's top priority, drew just three Democratic votes and is not expected to go anywhere.

Smith on Thursday noted that his bill would not defund Planned Parenthood, but that a bill already introduced by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, the "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act," would accomplish that goal.

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All but one of the mentioned supporters are male, which is completely unsurprising. A man would never be put in a position where they would have to make such a hard decision. It truly disturbs me that the people making choices for women in this country AREN'T WOMEN. It isn't abortion that's unethical, it is pretentious men that think that they are restoring our country's moral values by suppressing women's rights to their own bodies. I'm not saying that abortion is right or wrong, because honestly how can it be either and who really has the right to judge. I'm stating that this is a personal decision and if you don't think that women should terminate their pregnancies then keep your own baby. You, however, have no right to tell Susie Q 1,000 miles away that she can't do something to her own body.

February 06 2011 at 6:03 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

My goodness, whatever happened to the Republicans deep concern for the economy and the middle class?

January 22 2011 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to szphllps's comment

Teach a man to fish.......feed a man and he will return enslaved to his provider.

Which one of these thoughts birthed our country?

January 23 2011 at 7:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

More flatulence from the GOP. If they really are against abortion, why not just pass a law to make it illegal? It won't go anywhere, but their repeal of healthcare isn't going anywhere either. So why don't they do it? Because they emit mostly gas.

January 21 2011 at 3:57 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dave's comment

Dave, The GOP is and has been and will continue to pass laws that restrict abortion for health reasons and outlaw abortion for contraception purposes.

January 30 2011 at 6:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Whatever your views are on abortion, doesn't make it right to take tax dollars to fund them. If these people don't want to have kids they need to get sterilized. Then they scream it's their right to have a child, but it's OUR right to pay for them.

January 21 2011 at 1:10 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nnanciejean's comment

So, why should a woman be forced to pay the health care costs for a fetus she doesn't want to carry? Isn't that an insurance mandate from the government.

As soon as fetus' pay their own insurance and health care costs, come back and we'll talk about 'fetus as person.'

January 22 2011 at 12:20 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Well stated nnanciejean! robynmarigny, woman choose to create the "fetus", if you don't want to carry to term or to become a mother, then don't make a baby! It is your "choice" to procreate, not our ours. By the way, science has clearly proven that the "fetus" is a person, not a "choice"!

January 30 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Not for nothing but I didn't want my tax dollars going for the war in Iraq, but I don't have a choice.

I am tired of people pushing their religious views on to my life choices. If you object to abortion on moral or religious grounds fine, DON'T HAVE AN ABORTION!

But please stop telling me how to live my life. Stop telling me that you are some how more moral because you can quote a bible passage. News flash so can I, doesn't make me any better than you and you aren't any better than me.

Let me live my life and you can live yours.

January 21 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Gina's comment

It's odd that that none of the Republican presidents since Roe vs Wade was enacted, did nothing to overturn that decision. I guess they turned their backs on Evangelicals who helped get them in office.

January 21 2011 at 11:00 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe the question should be...Why are there so many unwanted pregnancies?

January 21 2011 at 9:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to doncrites's comment

Decay. Our country use to be based on...."Teach a man to fish".

Now, we are being forced to live the liberal mentality...."Feed a man and he will return enslaved to his provider."

January 23 2011 at 7:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Why are there so many abortions?

January 21 2011 at 9:33 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

While I am against abortion on demand but it seems there is not going to be any change in that situation in the near future. I am also against people not being allowed to smoke marijuana on the same grounds that got the murder of children in the womb legal: It is my body and I have the right to put anything into it I want too. I know many will disagree with this but allowing people to use marijuana could provide revenue for the nation. If weed were sold in state run outlets only where all the profits could be counted as tax and put into the social security coffers it could fund both social security and medicare to the point that the payroll tax for these programs could be reduced by fifty percent on the employee and the employer, real tax relief real change. And if all those imprisoned for marijuana offenses were released it would save the nations hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This would relieve some overcrowding in jails and ease the burden on the courts as well. I am a liberal from the Commonwealth of Virginia. May The Lord have mercy on us poor sinners and grant us prosperity and courage in the times to come

January 21 2011 at 8:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

...and you ask me why I enter any discussions on religion as an atheist? Well here's the reason. Religious fanatics who believe in a host (pun intended) of ridiculous ideas have decided that human life starts before birth. Because they, as religious fanatics, are involved in controlling government we have this problem. I don't remember "the people" speaking about abortion as a top priority that they wanted fixed. This is pandering to their fundamentalist base. This is an old score they want settled. Hey, no one thinks abortion is a great idea, like war, it should be a last resort. But it should be an available option to a woman. Most of you don't remember that the reason abortion was legalized was because of all the unnecessary deaths in back alley abortion "clinics" where the tool of choice was a wire hanger.

January 21 2011 at 5:00 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to beelzebubosun's comment

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