Panel passes bill banning abortion funding

WASHINGTON (BP)--A House of Representatives subcommittee approved Feb. 11 a bill to ban federal funding of abortion and abortion coverage in last year's health-care reform law.

The 14-9 vote for the Protect Life Act was the first under the House's new, pro-life, Republican leadership on a proposal to ban government funds for abortion. The vote, which came in the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was along party lines with one exception. Rep. Mike Ross, D.-Ark., voted with Republicans for the bill.

The full Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to vote Feb. 15 on the legislation.

The bill, H.R. 358, would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in March, not only to prohibit federal funds from being used for any portion of the costs of a health insurance plan that covers abortion but also to protect the pro-life conscience rights of health-care workers and institutions.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Health Subcommittee, said he was pleased the panel "gave voice to the American people."

"According to various surveys, 60 to 70 percent of Americans oppose federal funding of abortion services," he said after the subcommittee vote.

The Protect Life Act has 121 cosponsors in the House, led on the Democratic side by Rep. Dan Lipinski, D.-Ill.

Two other proposals to eliminate funding for abortion have been receiving significant attention in this Congress.

One of them, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., with 205 cosponsors, would institute a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funds and subsidies for abortion. The bill, H.R. 3, would serve to standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many of which have to be approved each year, and make certain the prohibition extends to all agencies.

The other bill, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., with 164 cosponsors, would bar Title X family planning money from going to organizations that perform abortions. The ban, H.R. 217, would include Planned Parenthood, the leading Title X recipient and the country's No. 1 abortion provider.

The action on the Protect Life Act came after an effort to repeal the entire health-care reform law failed. The House passed a repeal measure in a 245-189 vote in January, but the Democrat-controlled Senate defeated the same proposal Feb. 2 in a 51-47 roll call.


Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.