December 10, 2014 — Congressional lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending agreement that includes provisions to continue most existing restrictions on federal funding for abortion and directs HHS to issue guidance to health plans regarding transparency of abortion coverage in plans sold on the federal health insurance marketplace, CQ Roll Call reports (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 12/9).
Lawmakers are expected to approve the bill quickly. Current government funding runs out at midnight on Thursday (Gibson, International Business Times, 12/9). Overall, the spending deal would provide funding for 11 of the dozen appropriations measures through the end of fiscal year 2015 (Hallerman, CQ Roll Call, 12/9).
Abortion Restrictions Maintained
The spending deal would continue the current policy of barring the use of federal funding for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger (International Business Times, 12/9).
Some conservative lawmakers had wanted the omnibus to include language that would go beyond existing provisions to separate federal funds from abortion services.
Conservatives had also called for additional language allowing health care entities to refuse participation in abortion care or coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5). The bill states that the HHS secretary should respond promptly to disputes involving such entities' abortion-related refusals. According to CQ Roll Call, the provision likely arose from conservative opposition to California's announcement this summer that all health plans in the state must cover abortion care (Hallerman, CQ Roll Call, 12/9).
Contraceptive Coverage, Other Provisions
In addition, some conservatives had pushed GOP leaders to include a policy rider that would have given corporations more leeway to potentially refuse to cover contraceptives in their health plans. According to Politico, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instructed lawmakers negotiating the spending deal for Democrats to draw "a firm line" and be clear that such changes would be unacceptable (French, Politico, 12/9).
Further, Senate Democrats prevented cuts to family planning that some Republicans proposed during the debate over funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Overall, the omnibus would increase PEPFAR funding by $300 million (Wheaton, Politico Pro, 12/9).
According to House appropriators, the agreement also would allow $12 million in unused funding for abstinence education to be redistributed to states seeking additional money for such programs (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 12/9).