House votes to ban federally funded abortions

The House Wednesday evening passed a bill that would permanently ban the use of federal funds on elective abortion procedures, over repeated Democratic objections that the bill goes too far by enforcing this ban through the tax code.

The House approved the bill, H.R. 3, in a 251-175 vote. Every Republican voted for it, as did 16 Democrats.

Republicans cast the bill as a simple codification of the Hyde Amendment, which has been approved as a rider to various appropriations bills over the last few decades. They also said Americans support the idea of ensuring that no taxpayer funds are used for abortions.

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"A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the American people and ought to be the law of the land," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. "Enacting this legislation would provide the American people with the assurance that their hard-earned tax dollars will not be used to fund abortions."

But Democrats said the bill goes much further by ending tax breaks for companies that offer health coverage that includes abortion and prevents individuals from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxes. Democrats say this bill would serve to limit healthcare choices for women and infringe on their right to seek whatever coverage they want.

"For the first time, this bill places restrictions on how women with private insurance can spend their private dollars in purchasing health insurance," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "This bill will deny tax credits for women who buy the type of health insurance that they currently have, health insurance that covers a full range of reproductive care."

Other Democrats said the bill could open the door to an IRS audit to see whether certain healthcare costs were deducted properly from federal taxes, or whether these costs involved elective abortion and thus cannot be deducted. But Republicans rejected this and said the IRS would not launch an audit over how healthcare costs are reported, although Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said the IRS could uncover an improper deduction if someone was already being audited for other reasons.

Democrats also argued that report language for the bill makes it clear that Republicans want to prevent federal funding for abortions in the case of statutory rape. Report language cited by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) reads as follows:

"Reverting to the original Hyde Amendment language should not change longstanding policy. H.R. 3, with the Hyde Amendment language, will still appropriately not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape."

The Obama administration has said it would veto the bill, and the Senate is not expected to consider the measure.