January 9, 2014 — Conservative Republican lawmakers are starting 2014 with renewed efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive health care, both in stand-alone legislation and policy riders they want included in an omnibus spending bill, the Huffington Post reports.
Abortion Coverage Bill
At its first hearing of the year, the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday is scheduled to hold a hearing on a bill (HR 7) that aims to restrict access to abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).
According to the Huffington Post, the bill would bar federal tax credits to individuals who purchase health plans that include abortion coverage, as well as small businesses that offer such plans to their employees.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), would not apply in cases of rape or incest or when a woman's life is in danger. According to the Huffington Post, even if the bill is approved by the House, the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to hear the proposal (Bassett, Huffington Post, 1/8).
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said, "After waging an all-out assault on women's health in state capitols across the country, Washington Republicans are again planning to force their anti-choice views on American women at the federal level." She added, "Americans want to see Congress create jobs and fix our crumbling infrastructure, not launch more anti-woman crusades" (Newhauser, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).
Omnibus Spending Bill
Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators are weeding through about 134 policy riders, including some related to abortion, in attempts to reach an agreement on an omnibus spending package before funding for the federal government expires on Jan. 15 (Hallerman, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).
Staffers for both Democrats and Republicans have said some antiabortion-rights policy measures that have been included in previous appropriations bills, such as the Hyde Amendment, likely will be included in the final bill (Newhauser, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).
Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) noted earlier this week that other abortion-related riders are a "sticking point" in negotiations.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) suggested he would not support the bill unless abortion restrictions are included, saying, "For Republican conservatives you'd have to have pro-life riders in there and there is no question about that." He added, "That would kill the bill if they took any pro-life riders out" (Hallerman, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been pushing a rider that would exempt employers and insurers from the ACA's contraceptive coverage rules if they have moral or religious objections (Newhauser, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).
Details on the spending bill have not been released, but negotiators have said they are making some progress and are cautiously optimistic about reaching a deal (Hallerman, CQ Roll Call, 1/8).