House bill would ban federal abortion funding

Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) will introduce legislation Thursday placing a permanent ban on the federal funding of abortion. 

While a 34-year-old law — dubbed the Hyde Amendment — already ensures taxpayers don’t subsidize abortions under Medicaid and all other federal health programs, the law is temporary, forcing Congress to pass it each year as a rider to broader spending bills.

The Smith/Lipinski bill would permanently solidify the funding ban across all federal agencies.

“Congress can act now and fix this problem once and for all,” Charmaine Yoest, head of Americans United for Life Action, said in a statement endorsing the bill.

The legislation arrives as lawmakers joust over the possibility that newly created high-risk pools — established by the new healthcare reform law — could cover elective abortions. 

On Thursday, the Obama administration issued a new regulation clarifying that the pools are prohibited from covering abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is threatened by the pregnancy.

Those rules are more restrictive than the reform law’s limits on state-based exchange plans, which are permitted to cover abortion services if the patient pays separately for that coverage.

Liberal lawmakers have slammed the restrictions on high-risk pools, arguing  they’ll deny needed care to vulnerable women.