Despite Odds, Lawmakers Vow to End Abortion Subsidies

January 29, 2014
A bipartisan group of lawmakers are working to pass legislation ending th

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are working to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

WASHINGTON — Even before the House approved legislation Tuesday evening that would ban indirect funding of abortion on health exchanges such as Colorado’s, a pro-life lawmaker vowed to win the political debate in Congress over the hotly contested issue.

“Pass this bill. Put pressure on the U.S. Senate. And let them (senators) follow the will of the people,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) said Tuesday afternoon.

Lipinski, the chief Democratic co-sponsor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, urged the upper chamber to vote and approve the legislation. The Senate did not consider a similar bill three years ago.

Although the body is not expected to take up the legislation this year, an organization that opposes legal protection to the unborn warned its members to pressure Senators to ensure they don’t consider the bill. “We do not have a solid  pro-choice majority in the Senate,” Ilyse G. Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in an email.

Comparing the results of the vote Tuesday with that of three years ago, conservatives will need to win more lawmakers to their side.  The bill passed 227 to 188. In May 2011, the House approved a similar bill 251 to 175.

Yet even Democratic lawmakers did not dispute Republicans’ argument that the public opposes public funding of abortion. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) emphasized the popularity of the proposal in an interview before the vote.

“There’s overwhelming opposition to funding for abortion. In fact, it’s in Colorado’s constitution. It cuts across party lines. People don’t believe in using public dollars for abortion,” he said in a telephone interview.

The results of polling data support Gardner’s point about public opposition to abortion funding.

In 2009 and 2011, a CNN survey of more than 800 Americans asked, “Generally speaking are you in favor of using public funds for abortions when women cannot afford it, or are you opposed?” Thirty-five and 37 percent were in favor, while 61 percent were opposed.

Colorado’s House members split on the bill. Republicans Gardner, Mike Coffman of Aurora, and Doug Lamborn voted “yea” on the bill; Democrats Diana DeGette of Denver, Jared Polis of Boulder, and Ed Perlmutter voted “nay.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) did not vote. Josh Green, Tipton’s spokesman, said the congressman had a death in the family and was back in the district.

Opponents of the legislation said the bill not only represented an attack on women’s reproductive health but also was fraudulent.

“This has gotta be the most deceptively named bill in this Congress. There is not taxpayer funding for abortion. Let me repeat that. There is no taxpayer funding of abortion,” Rep. DeGette said on the House floor during debate on the bill.

DeGette’s argument was similar to that of four years ago when she helped lead pro-choice forces in the House broker an agreement on funding for abortion. But her words turned on the meaning of the phrase “taxpayer funding.”

Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the federal government allows insurance plans that cover abortion to be on state and the federal marketplaces or exchanges.

The law allows states to prohibit health policies that cover abortion too. Twenty-four states have taken that step, according to the National Women’s Law Project.

Colorado fits in the middle in the spectrum. It prohibits public employees from receiving abortion services on their health plans. And its health marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, permits plans that cover abortion services.

The bill that Lipinski and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) sponsored would make permanent federal Medicaid funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother, and physical disability.

Yet the bill is likely to perish even if the Senate voted on and approved the bill. President Obama  has said he would veto the legislation.

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