House Judiciary OKs bill denying federal funds for abortion

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent a bill denying federal funding for abortion to the full chamber for consideration.

In a 23-14 vote, the panel approved H.R. 3, "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," on a largely party-line vote. Puerto Rico Del. Pedro Pierluisi was the only Democrat to vote for the bill.

Before sending the measure to the full House, the panel removed a controversial provision that would have redefined rape as "forcible rape," which Democrats on the committee charged was an effort to prevent minors from obtaining abortions.

Republicans had agreed to drop that language shortly after the provision came under intense scrutiny in February.

"I am pleased that public pressure has caused the sponsors to reconsider their extreme position, and that we will have the opportunity to remove those outrageous provisions," Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) said at the mark-up.

During the nearly three-and-a-half-hour meeting, Judiciary Committee members exchanged highly charged barbs over whether the bill would ban abortion outright.

Ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said "this bill seeks to expand restrictions in current law and to impose an unprecedented penalty — by use of the tax code — on privately funded healthcare choices made by women and their families. Its goal — and effect, if ever enacted — is to make abortion and coverage for abortion services completely unavailable."

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the bill would not ban elective abortion.

"H.R. 3 does not ban abortion. It also does not restrict abortions, or abortion coverage in healthcare plans, as long as those abortions or plans use only private or state funds," Smith said.
He added that "now is the time for Congress to pass one piece of legislation that prohibits the federal funding of abortions and prohibits the use of fiscal policy to encourage or subsidize abortions."