Dems hammer GOP on abortion vote

Greg Nash

The GOP's latest vote to scale back abortion coverage will alienate women and haunt Republicans at the polls, House Democratic leaders charged Wednesday.

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The Democrats said the House proposal to cement the ban on federal abortion funding — which passed the lower chamber Tuesday on largely partisan lines — is just the most recent example of the Republicans' "war on women."

And they didn't mince words in drawing gender lines between the parties.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the GOP's effort as a "fake front issue" revealing the Republicans' "disrespect for the judgment of women."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called it an "extreme" proposal revealing that Republicans are living in another century. And Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) described the vote as a "spectacle ... of men in blue suits and red ties deciding what the women in the country are going to be able to do."

"If we were to demand that every man having a vasectomy would not be allowed to do it during child-bearing age, that would be as stupid as what we are going through here," Slaughter said during a pep rally of advocates for abortion rights in the Capitol.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the proposal would make permanent the ban on federal spending on abortion, a ban that's been approved annually for almost four decades via an attachment to the Health and Human Services spending bill known as the Hyde Amendment.

Supporters say it would also ensure that no federal funding goes to subsidize insurance plans that offer abortion coverage on the exchanges created under the Democrats' Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"Under the Affordable Care Act, massive amounts of public funds ... will pay for insurance plans, many, perhaps most of which, will include elective abortions, abortion on demand," Smith said. "That massively violates the Hyde Amendment."

Democrats reject that charge, saying the ACA "explicitly prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to purchase abortion insurance coverage in the new healthcare exchanges," in the words of Boxer.

"Their legislation, therefore, is a solution in search of a problem," she said.

The Democrats have hammered Republicans for wanting to limit the reach of government in public life but fighting to expand Washington's reach when it comes to women's reproductive health.

"Politicians make crappy doctors," Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said.

Smith's bill passed through the House Tuesday by a vote of 227 to 188, with six Democrats supporting the measure and one Republican voting against. The proposal has no chance of moving through the Democratically controlled Senate.

The issue of women's reproductive health has dogged Republicans in recent years, as a handful of favored GOP candidates have seen their campaigns sink after making controversial remarks on the topic. Former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), for instance, had a healthy lead in his 2012 race for the Senate until he claimed that women's bodies can somehow shut down to prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."

The episodes led GOP campaign leaders to launch counseling sessions designed to advise Republican staffers on how to run more effective campaigns against female candidates, while Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged last month that "some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be."

Despite the Democrats' opposition to the GOP's abortion positions, many see the issue as a boon for the party at the polls.

"I want them [Republicans] to put their cards on the table," Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said at Wednesday's event. "Because when they try to fight this battle out in the open, they lose it."