On the heels of the House vote to repeal President Obama’s signature health care overhaul, House Republicans Thursday turned their attention to the issue of abortion, specifically the taxpayer funding of elective abortions.
During a morning press conference, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted that ending taxpayer-funded abortions is a top priority on the Republican agenda during the 112th Congress. Introducing the GOP’s “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” Boehner said the bill would “make clear that taxpayer funding of elective abortion will not be the policy of this government,” noting that current law “does not reflect the will of the American people.”
“Our members feel very strongly about the sanctity of human life,” Boehner added.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who said the measure would ensure that Americans “no longer are coerced into using taxpayer money to subsidize the killing of an unborn child.” Smith also said that the bill includes so-called “conscience protections” that would empower courts and ensure that doctors, nurses and other health care practitioners may opt out from having to perform the procedure if it conflicted with their personal beliefs.
Last Spring, the passage of President Obama’s health care reform bill came down to the votes of a key group of pro-life Democrats — including then-Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. — who insisted on protections against taxpayer-funded abortions. In a compromise, Obama signed an executive order he said reaffirmed existing bans on taxpayer-funded abortions. But the decision riled Republicans and pro-life advocates who claimed the ObamaCare bill included a “congressionally mandated tax to support abortion.”
In response to the GOP’s newest initiative, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, released a statement claiming the bill was designed “to end insurance coverage for virtually all abortions, including private insurance coverage that Americans pay for with their own money, even in cases involving the most severe dangers to a woman’s health.”
“Under the Smith bill, individuals who have health insurance coverage that includes abortion will face tax penalties because they will not be able to claim existing tax deductions for the cost of their health care,” Richards said. “Similarly, small businesses that offer their employees comprehensive health insurance coverage will also face tax penalties because they will no longer be able to claim existing deductions.”
But Boehner and Smith insisted the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” would codify the existing ban — the so-called Hyde amendment. The GOP also signaled support for a separate bill from Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., that would ban federal funding of any kind for organizations that perform abortions.