U.S. House Strikes Abortion Funds
Special Report - October 18, 2011
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 358Protect Life Act, a measure that would prohibit the federal healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), from requiring “any health plan to provide coverage of or access to abortion services” or “coverage of, access to, or training in abortion services.” Although the Hyde Amendment, originally passed in 1976, prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion through discretionary funds administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, many contend that neither the provisions of the Hyde Amendment nor the provisions of a related executive order, apply to the federal healthcare law.
The bill specifies that “no funds authorized or appropriated by [the PPACA] may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,” except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at risk. The bill would require that any health plans covering elective abortion be paid for by private funds.
Additionally, the bill would strengthen conscience protections for health care entities by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of refusal to: undergo training in abortions; require or provide such training; perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for abortions; or provide referrals for such training or abortions. Under this proposal, “‘health care entity’ includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.”
The Protect Life Act was passed by a vote of 251-172, with 236 Republicans and 15 Democrats voting in support of the bill. The 170 opposing Democrats were joined by two Republicans in voting against the measure. A bipartisan majority of the North Carolina delegation voted in favor of the proposal, including: Representatives Howard Coble (R6), Renee Ellmers (R2), Virginia Foxx (R5), Walter Jones (R3), Patrick McHenry (R10), Mike McIntyre (D7), Sue Myrick (R9), and Heath Shuler (D11). North Carolina Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D1), Larry Kissell (D8), Brad Miller (D13), David Price (D4), and Mel Watt (D12) all voted against the bill. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate is not expected to consider the matter.
In a statement, the Obama Administration expressed disapproval of the bill, saying that “the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because the legislation intrudes on women's reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today.” The statement went on to say that, should the measure reach the President’s desk, “his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, took issue with the Administration’s statement, responding, “The U.S. House should be applauded for doing their rightful duty to ensure that the provisions of the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy, are not usurped by the federal healthcare law. The U.S. Senate should take quick action to pass this bill, send it to the president’s desk, and uphold the provisions.”
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