By Elise Viebeck and Sam Baker - 07/30/12 10:30 PM EDT
The House is set to vote Tuesday on a bill to criminalize some abortions in the District of Columbia. Republican leadership is bringing the bill up under suspension of the rules, which sets a higher vote hurdle for passage and likely dooms the measure to failure. The bill is the latest in a series of anti-abortion pushes from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who also authored legislation that would ban sex-selective abortion. The House rejected that measure on May 31, also under suspension of the rules.
Franks's latest bill would fine or imprison doctors who perform abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Groups that support the bill argue that some limits on D.C.'s liberal policy on abortion are reasonable. Opponents, who include advocates for D.C. home rule, say the bill "doubly" violates the Constitution by contradicting Roe v. Wade and singling out only some Americans.
Groups on both sides of the debate will be "scoring" the bill, or tracking members' votes to use in annual scorecards. The Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues, estimates that 1.5 percent of abortions happen after 21 weeks of pregnancy.
Similar law upheld: A federal judge in Arizona upheld the state's law banning abortion after 20 weeks — the same threshold Washington would adopt under Franks's bill. The judge said Arizona had demonstrated that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, making it appropriate for the government to step in and prevent that pain. Healthwatch has more.
'Personhood' challenge: A group that seeks to establish legal rights for embryos is mounting its first Supreme Court challenge after several defeats at the state level. Personhood USA is asking the nation's highest court to let it continue circulating an Oklahoma ballot measure that was voided by the state Supreme Court. The anti-abortion-rights grope argues that in ruling this way, the state court violated Oklahoma citizens' First and 10th Amendment rights. Read more about the appeal at Healthwatch.
Birthday week continues: Congressional Democrats cut a cake last week to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, and the festivities/press releases continued Monday — 47 years since then-President Lyndon Johnson signed the programs into law.
"For our elderly, the pledge reflects the acknowledgement that after contributing a lifetime to our nation’s well-being, our seniors deserve to be able to live out their years with the security and peace of mind that comes with having affordable health insurance under Medicare," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "For low income children, parents and people with disabilities, Medicaid created a federal-state partnership to provide a secure health care safety net to promote stronger families and communities across our country."
She went on to say the Affordable Care Act "strengthens that promise," citing new benefits for seniors.
A group of Democratic senators will hold a press conference on new preventive health benefits for women that are taking effect under the Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will also speak.
Sebelius will visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Fraud Command Center in Baltimore.
The Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up the Asthma Inhalers Relief Act, which seeks to provide asthmatics with access to a certain over-the-counter inhaler phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The House Veterans Affairs Health subcommittee will hold a hearing on optimizing care for veterans with prosthetics.
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