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House Panel Advances Limits on Abortion Coverage, Ban on D.C. Abortion Funding

House Panel Advances Limits on Abortion Coverage, Ban on D.C. Abortion Funding

July 18, 2013 — The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday advanced a fiscal year 2014 Financial Services spending bill that would prohibit health plans in the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) health insurance marketplaces from covering abortion and bar Washington, D.C., from using local tax revenue to fund abortions for low-income women, The Hill's "On the Money" reports.

The panel rejected an amendment to remove the language on the abortion coverage restrictions in the insurance marketplaces. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who offered the amendment, argued that the current bill "punishes women by forcing them out of the exchanges simply for choosing plans that cover reproductive services."

Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) -- who authored the provision -- said that the ban is consistent with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal money for abortion services. He argued that taxpayers would indirectly fund abortion without the restrictions through the salaries of federal officials who administer the marketplaces.

Democrats pointed out that private insurance companies would be offering the abortion coverage. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called the provision part of the GOP's "sustained ideological assault on women's health."

Panel Also Rejects Amendment To Remove Ban on D.C. Abortion Funding

The committee also rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) that would have lifted the bill's ban on the use of local funds for abortions in D.C. (Wasson, "On the Money," The Hill, 7/17). Quigley said, "Every other state in the U.S. has the right to spend its local funds as it sees fit, but we have somehow decided to constrict funds in D.C."

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) argued that the restrictions essentially make the district "some forgotten area of the nation that [lawmakers] happen to visit a couple of days a week and then we tell them how to spend their local funds" (Pershing, Washington Post, 7/17). Democrats said Congress should stop using D.C. as their ideological "playground," with Lowey adding that the provision is "a real slap in the face to the residents of the District."

Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) argued that the provision is in line with the Hyde Amendment, given D.C.'s special status. The district's budget is appropriated through the Financial Services bill, even though it was granted limited home rule in the 1970s ("On the Money," The Hill, 7/17).

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) -- chair of the subcommittee that authored the bill -- argued that the ban has been regularly approved for several years and that it is the bill's only restriction on locally raised funds. The abortion restrictions have been in place nearly every year since 1996, the Post reports.

According to the Post, the Democratic-controlled Senate will propose its own version of the D.C. budget that will likely not include the abortion ban (Washington Post, 7/17).