WASHINGTON (CN) – In a sweeping vote that could upset health care coverage for millions of women across the nation, House Republicans voted to permanently bar women in the United States from receiving federal assistance for abortions.
The bill, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017,” was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican. It passed Tuesday 238 to 183.
It must be approved by the Senate to become law.
According to the bill, “no funds authorized or appropriated by federal law and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are authorized or appropriated” will be spent for “any abortion.” It also prohibits funding for federal employees and facilities.
The vote came just 24 hours after President Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule removing U.S. funding from foreign aid groups which provide women’s health care services, including abortions.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement blasting the new administration for the reinstated rule.
“It’s telling that one of Trump’s first executive actions combines two of his favorite things: silencing anyone who disagrees with him and repressing women,” Hogue said. “Just two days after the historic Women’s March and one day after the anniversary of the historic decision in Roe v. Wade, [the president’s] misguided priority is to reinstate the global gag rule, a policy that silences health workers at the expense of their patients.”
Saying that the action has officially turned his “anti-women rhetoric into policy,” Hogue declared that President Trump “really is living up the lowest of expectations.”
In a separate statement on Wednesday, specific to the House bill, Hogue said of Congressional Republicans: “[They] continue to ignore the voices of millions of Americans who marched … to demand respect and dignity for women … amidst a flurry of executive and congressional actions to make life harder for women here at home and around the globe, Republican leaders dig even deeper and passed a bill to deny many women the chance to buy insurance coverage that includes abortion, even if they pay with their own money.”
Smith’s bill says that its intention is to “prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions.” Yet under the Hyde Amendment, federal tax dollars were not allowed to pay for abortions in the U.S. before Tuesday’s vote anyway.
Ten states prohibit insurance coverage of abortion for all providers according to the National Women’s Law Center. If approved by the Senate and codified into law, federal abortion funding for all insurance providers, even private one, would end.
Hyde bans federal funding for abortion in the U.S. with few exceptions. Pregnancies through rape or incest are eligible for federally funded abortions; women with abnormal fetuses are not.
The amendment has been attached to budget riders that have passed routinely since the 1970s. While abortion cannot be banned directly, the House bill’s indirect effect is seen as intrusive.
Barring private insurance companies from covering abortion through the Affordable Care Act makes paying for the operation harder for expecting mothers who may already be strapped.
According to Planned Parenthood, surgical abortions can cost up to $1,500 in the first trimester. Through federal funding, the nonprofit has been able to offer a sliding scale option to low income women.
A study from Guttmacher Institute revealed that abortion rates are on their steepest decline since 1973, though why this is the case is still unclear. Some suggest an uptick in responsible contraceptive use and better planning by more educated mothers-to-be could be part of it. But the low numbers could be deceptive.
“The wave of abortion restrictions passed at the state level over the last five years could also have contributed to the decline by making it more difficult for women to access needed services in highly restrictive states,” the study found.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life, supports the news out of the House and said that most taxpayers would likely be agreeable to its passage.
“The majority of taxpayers don’t want money used to kill babies or they don’t want to force other people to,” Tobias said in a phone interview Wednesday.
When asked if she thought if the law may disproportionately affect impoverished women or women of color, Tobias said she did not think that race “has anything to do with it.”
“Most programs [for pregnant women] are geared toward lower income [women], especially with Medicaid,” she said. “I don’t think killing a baby is going to improve anyone’s situation or condition. Killing their child does not change their situation. It doesn’t make them rich, it doesn’t give them a college degree … we don’t kill human beings because they’re inconvenient.”
Tobias said she looks forward to seeing the bill be approved by the Senate.