House Appropriations Comm. Approves Abortion Restrictions for Federal Employees, District of Columbia

June 21, 2012 — The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that would prohibit the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program from including abortion coverage in plans offered in multistate health insurance exchanges created under health reform, The Hill's "On the Money" reports. The federal health reform law (PL 111-148) already specifies that one of the two multistate plans created by the Office of Personnel Management for federal employees cannot cover abortion services.

The amendment expands on an existing ban on the use of federal money for abortion coverage in FEHB plans. Committee members voted 28-20 to add the amendment to the fiscal year 2013 Financial Services Appropriations bill (Wasson, "On The Money," The Hill, 6/20). The panel later approved the bill by voice vote (Craig, Washington Post, 6/20).

Democrats on the panel said it would limit access, particularly for low-income women, to abortion coverage through private health plans. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) called the amendment "mean-spirited" and part of the GOP's "war on women" ("On The Money," The Hill, 6/20).

Ban on D.C. Abortion Funding Remains

During the debate, Lee proposed an amendment that would have removed a provision barring Washington, D.C., from using its own revenue to pay for abortion care for low-income women. The amendment was rejected, 26-21.

"It marginalizes the city and its residents and blatantly impedes on the District's ability to self govern," Lee said, adding, "No other city is told how to spend its locally raised revenue, so why should we force the District?"

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), chair of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, said the full House would be unlikely to approve the spending plan without the abortion language. "If we want the financial services bill to move forward, ... and if you want D.C. to be able to spend its local funds on everything else beside[s] abortion, we have to allow it to move forward," she said (Washington Post, 6/20).