House GOP to attack abortion funding

House Republicans next week plan to pass legislation that would close what they say are loopholes that allow last year's healthcare law to be used to provide federal support for abortions.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House would consider on Thursday H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. The bill, offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) so that federal funds would be prohibited from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage for abortion services.

That's a significant change from current law, which prohibits federal funding for abortions but otherwise allows federal funds to cover costs of healthcare plans that are unrelated to abortions.

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The bill allows for an exemption to this change in policy in the case of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.

Pitts has said previously that while most Americans support the idea of ensuring no federal funds are used for abortion, the healthcare law falls short of that goal.

"The new health care law is riddled with loopholes that allow taxpayer subsidies for coverage that includes abortion," Pitts said. "My new bill would extend longstanding policy by preventing federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion coverage."

The bill, which has 145 co-sponsors, would also require companies offering qualified healthcare plans that cover abortions through a health insurance exchange to also offer an identical plan that does not cover abortion. And it would prohibit governments at all levels from requiring healthcare plans to discriminate against healthcare facilities that refuse to train for or perform abortions.

Finally, the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to formally establish a process for hearing and investigating complaints about violations of these requirements.

Democrats throughout the year have rejected the idea that tighter abortion rules are needed, but Republicans have offered several bills that would tighten abortion rules. Last week, House Republicans offered a spending bill that also clarifies that no money from PPACA can be used to fund abortions, and strengthens rules that prohibit discrimination against doctors who refuse to perform the procedure.