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House Passes Antiabortion-Rights Bill, Reviving 'War on Women' Charges

House Passes Antiabortion-Rights Bill, Reviving 'War on Women' Charges

January 29, 2014 —The House on Tuesday passed a bill (HR 7) that would increase restrictions on abortion coverage in the health insurance marketplaces and elsewhere, the National Journal reports.

The bill, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, was approved 227-188. The Senate is not expected to pass it, and the White House strongly opposes it (Novack, National Journal, 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. It also would codify a longstanding policy banning the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. The bill also would bar Washington, D.C., from using locally raised funds to subsidize abortion care for low-income women.

In addition, the bill would require the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that no multistate qualified health plan offered through a state-run marketplace covers abortion. Further, the bill would require plans that do offer abortion coverage to prominently disclose that information to enrollees and list a surcharge attributable to abortion coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Key Arguments

The bill's supporters said that current policies are insufficient to keep federal funds from covering abortions and that taxpayers could end up funding the procedure through their health plan premiums (National Journal, 1/28).

However, Democrats argued that the bill continues the GOP's "war on women" by further restricting abortion access through private health plans (Cassata, AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/28).

Rep. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) called the bill political "propaganda," adding, "The Republicans are trying to make people believe their taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for abortions. It's not true" (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 1/28).

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said, "The real goal of this bill is to make abortion and coverage for abortion services paid for by private individuals with their own money unavailable" (National Journal, 1/28).

Bill Politically Significant for Both Sides

According to the New York Times, although the bill has little chance of advancing, both sides saw it as a flashpoint in the debate over women's health as the GOP attempts to shed the narrative that it is anti-women. Lawmakers from both parties "seemed to relish the chance" to attack their opponents for using the bill to their political advantage, the Times reports.

A senior Republican leadership aide said the bill likely would be the last abortion-related measure the House will consider this year.

The Times notes that the House voted the same day that President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, diverting media attention from the measure. The Republican House leadership made the bill one of its first orders of business this year, ensuring the vote came many months before this fall's midterm election (Peters, New York Times, 1/28).