By Susan T. Muskett, J.D., Senior Legislative Counsel
WASHINGTON (January 16, 2014) – Yesterday, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved NRLC-backed legislation to permanently prohibit subsidies for abortion in federally funded health programs.
The committee approved the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 7, by a vote of 22-12. Twenty-one Republicans, plus one Democrat, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi from Puerto Rico, voted for the bill. All 12 votes against the bill were cast by Democrats.
H.R. 7, introduced by Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), would permanently prohibit subsidies for abortion and health insurance coverage of abortion in federal programs – both within longstanding federal programs and within the health care law signed by President Obama in 2010. The bill is strongly supported by NRLC.
The committee beat back eight hostile amendments before reporting the bill favorably out of committee.
One of the issues debated by the committee was whether Congress should permanently prohibit funding of abortions within the District of Columbia. Under the Constitution, the District is exclusively a federal jurisdiction. All government funds in the Federal District are federally controlled, federally appropriated funds – and that is why H.R. 7 applies the Hyde Amendment principles to these funds. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) defended the bill’s application to the Federal District, stating, as reported by Roll Call newspaper, “Clearly, Congress bears constitutional responsibility for the use of these funds, and so Congress bears a responsibility to protect the innocent lives of unborn children in the nation’s capital.”
ObamaCare makes enactment of H.R. 7 all the more urgent. One part of the ObamaCare law establishes a big new program to provide federal subsidies for tens of millions of American families whose household income is 400 percent or less of the federal poverty level ($94,200 for a family of four). These federal subsidies can be used to purchase health plans that cover all abortions. As a result, the federal government will be purchasing abortion-on-demand insurance – which is a sharp departure from decades of previous federal policy under the Hyde Amendment, the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, and other federal programs.
Moreover, in early October 2013, the Obama Administration issued a rulemaking allowing the federal government to purchase abortion-covering plans for Members of Congress and their staffs, which is something that no other federal employee is allowed to do. The rulemaking spells out how this transition will occur, without interrupting the contributions made by the government to the cost of such plans (approximately 75% of the premium cost). Research by the office of Congressman Chris Smith found that of the 112 health plans available to Members of Congress and their staffs, more than 90 percent of the plans – 103 out of 112 plans – cover elective abortion.
Last week, Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University School of Law, submitted testimony in support of H.R. 7, asserting that it “serves the interests of American women for the federal government once and for all to remove itself from the business of abortion funding.” Arina Grossu, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, echoed this theme yesterday, praising passage of the bill by the committee as being a “victory for women, their unborn children, and taxpayers who should not be forced by the government to pay for someone else’s abortion.”
NRLC’s Senior Legislative Counsel Susan Muskett, who attended yesterday’s markup, commended Chairman Goodlatte and Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks (R-AZ) on the committee’s approval of the bill.
“Polling consistently shows that the vast majority of the people do not support government funding of abortion, and it was good to see that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was not thwarted by the efforts of those who oppose even this ban on federal funding of abortion,” Muskett said.
H.R. 7 continues to gain cosponsors. Ten new cosponsors were added yesterday, bringing the current total to 165 cosponsors. To view an always-current list of co-sponsors of H.R. 7, click here.