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White House Pledges Veto of House Antiabortion-Rights Bill

White House Pledges Veto of House Antiabortion-Rights Bill

January 28, 2014 — President Obama would veto an antiabortion-rights bill (HR 7) that is up for a vote in the House if it reaches his desk, according to a White House statement issued on Monday, the AP/ABC News reports (Cassata, AP/ABC News, 1/28).

The bill would bar individuals who receive subsidies for purchasing health plans through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces from choosing policies that include abortion coverage (Kim, CQ Roll Call, 1/27). It also would codify a longstanding policy banning the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment (Young, CQ HealthBeat, 1/27).

The bill also would bar Washington, D.C., from using locally raised funds to subsidize abortion care for low-income women (Bassett, Huffington Post, 1/27).

Modified Versions

The House Rules Committee on Monday approved the legislation for a floor vote on Tuesday, with a rule adopting amendments to the bill. The modified version no longer includes provisions that prevent individuals from deducting abortion-related costs as a tax-eligible medical expense or from using pre-tax flexible health savings accounts for abortion expenses.

The amendment also would require the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that no multi-state qualified health plan offered through a state-run marketplace covers abortion. In addition, the bill would now require plans that do offer abortion coverage to prominently disclose that information to enrollees and list a surcharge attributable to abortion coverage (CQ Roll Call, 1/27).

Veto Warning

The White House's Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administrative policy that longstanding federal policy already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, adding that this prohibition is also carried out in the ACA via a 2010 executive order.

"H.R. 7 would go well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers' private health care choices," the statement said (CQ HealthBeat, 1/27).

It added, "The legislation would intrude on women's reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict [D.C.'s] use of local funds, which undermines home rule" (CQ Roll Call, 1/27).

The Obama administration "strongly opposes" the measure, the statement said (CQ HealthBeat, 1/27).

Comments From Lawmakers

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) said it is difficult for consumers to find out if a health plan covers abortion and argued that the bill is necessary to ensure taxpayer money isn't used toward the procedure.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) disputed Smith's claims that tax subsidies under the ACA can be used for abortion coverage, noting that those tax credits are already segregated out for plans that include abortion. "This is far, far beyond current law, and it's an obvious step towards banning private health insurance coverage of key women's health benefits," she said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said that the Senate would never take up the measure, stating, "We know that this [bill] is not going anywhere" (CQ Roll Call, 1/27).