WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary committee on Thursday approved a broad measure that limits access to abortion for women whose health may be harmed by carrying a pregnancy to term.
The panel passed HR 3 “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” in a mostly party-line vote of 23-14, sending it to the House floor. One Democrat, Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, crossed the aisle to vote for it.
The Judiciary markup (pdf) stripped some of the legislation’s most controversial provisions, including language that would have restricted abortion access under Medicaid to victims of “forcible rape” or underage incest. But it leaves intact a significant change to current abortion funding laws, which allows women to obtain abortions if their health is in danger even if the risk of death is not imminent.
Clause (2) of Section (309) carves out an exemption “in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”
“This bill jeopardizes the ability of insurance companies to cover abortion care, even for women with wanted pregnancies who experience unanticipated health-related complications, such as breast cancer,” said Nancy Keenan, president of the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL. “Abortion may be the best option to protect their health and ensure they can have children in the future, yet this bill tells insurance companies they can’t cover this care.”
A top Republican priority sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill seeks to curtail abortions largely by eliminating tax incentives and subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion. It would effectively discourage insurance providers from providing abortion care, and raise costs for businesses and consumers that purchase plans that cover abortion.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called it “an unprecedented attack on women, families, and their rights under the Constitution. Let’s not pretend this is about government funding.”
Nadler accused Republicans of duplicity for portraying tax incentives as federal funding, arguing that it contradicts the party’s view of taxes. He said the argument also implies that tax exemption for religious entities would constitute the federal funding of religion, a violation of the First Amendment.
“H.R. 3 does not ban abortion,” countered committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “It also does not restrict abortions, or abortion coverage in health care plans, as long as those abortions or plans use only private or state funds.”