WASHINGTON – The House voted 251-175 on Wednesday to pass the GOP's controversial anti-abortion measure H.R. 3, "The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act." Sixteen Democrats joined 235 Republicans in approving it.
It now goes to the Senate, where it's all but certain to perish. The White House has threatened to veto it.
The legislation would eliminate tax deductions for employer-provided health insurance plans that cover abortion, effectively raising costs for businesses that offer abortion-inclusive health care to employees. It could also deny Medicaid-based abortion care to women even if their health may be harmed by carrying the pregnancy to term.
"This bill just simply helps codify what has de facto been our policy for 35 years through the Hyde amendment, and that is a policy that in no way shape or form outlaws abortion," said Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hansarling (R-TX).
Democrats said it would harm small business and further restrict the private medical decisions of women.
"This bill goes far beyond prohibiting federal funding [for abortion]," said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). "The real purpose and effect of this bill is to eliminate private health care choices for women by imposing significant tax penalties on families and small businesses when they use their own money to pay for health insurance or medical care.
The measure maintains exemptions for cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is in danger. But a committee report left open the possibility that the legislation could deny federally-subsidized abortion in instances of statutory rape.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called it "common sense bipartisan legislation" that reflected "the will of the American people and ought to be the law of the land."
Abortion-rights groups were livid and promised a backlash.
"This bill is so extreme that it manipulates the tax code to advance anti-choice policies and could spur the IRS to audit rape and incest survivors who choose abortion care," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Members of Congress who supported this egregious assault on women will hear from outraged Americans through phone calls, protests, petitions, and most importantly, at the ballot box in 2012."
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said she was "outraged" that the measure passed. "H.R. 3 is a dangerous bill that goes far beyond any other proposal ever introduced in Congress to take comprehensive health care coverage away from women," she said.