Democrats protest GOP anti-abortion bill

Democratic lawmakers mounted a protest alongside abortion-rights activists Wednesday over a GOP bill to impose tax penalties on health plans that cover abortion.

Nearly 100 people, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), descended on a Capitol Hill hallway to register their complaints ahead of the bill's mark-up Wednesday.

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Many women criticized the GOP-led subcommittee for bringing up the bill, noting that the panel has no women members on the Republican side. Several protesters carried cards reading, "Where are the women?"

The question echoed a longstanding Democratic charge that Republicans who oppose abortion rights are waging a "war on women," a claim the GOP rejects.

The phrase most identified in 2012 is likely to rear its head again as campaign season heats up.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attacked then bill from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) as "anti-woman" on Wednesday, saying its changes in the tax code could lead the Internal Revenue Service to audit rape victims.

Abortion has been a flashpoint for decades on Capitol Hill, but clashes have increased in this Congress as House Republicans pass a variety of bills to limit the procedure.

Curbing abortion rights is a moral crusade for most Republicans, and the current House GOP conference has vowed renewed focus on the issue in 2014.

Smith's "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" Act currently has 154 cosponsors in the House.

It would make permanent the Hyde Amendment banning federal funds for elective abortions and deny ObamaCare tax credits to any plan that includes abortion coverage.

The measure would also change the tax code to stop deductions from applying to medical expenses related to abortion, according to a summary by the Congressional Research Service.

Major anti-abortion players have thrown their weight behind the legislation. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the idea of a permanent Hyde Amendment in its endorsement this month.

"While Congress's policy [against federal funding for abortion] has been consistent for decade, its implementation in practice has been piecemeal," said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

"Gaps or loopholes have been discovered … highlighting the need for a permanent and consistent policy across the federal government."

Abortion-rights groups attacked the legislation as an underhanded attempt to deny abortion access to women, particularly those with lower incomes.