WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The House on Wednesday afternoon voted 251-175 to pass H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which makes permanent and universal the annually-approved Hyde amendment. In its current form, the Hyde amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion except for in cases of rape and incest, requires annual approval.
The bill was authored by veteran pro-life leader Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and sported at least 227 co-sponsors by the time of the vote.
“When public funding and facilitation for abortion isn’t available, children have a greater chance at survival,” said Smith in the general debate before the final vote this afternoon.
“I remember the late Congressman Henry Hyde being moved literally to tears … when he learned that the Hyde amendment had likely saved the lives of more than one million babies, who today are getting on with their lives, going to school, forging a career,” he added.
In the final vote, all Republicans either voted for or sponsored the bill; 16 Democrats favored it as well (Rep.s Altmire, Boren, Costello, Critz, Cuellar, Donnelly, Holden, Kaptur, Kildee, Lipinski, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson, Rahall, Ross of Arizona, and Shuler).
The bill is expected to meet with stiffer odds in the Democrat-led Senate, which in March struck down a measure to de-fund abortion giant Planned Parenthood that had strongly passed in the House. President Obama has already threatened to veto H.R. 3.
Lawmakers spent much of the afternoon debating the funding ban, with Democrats calling the measure an overreach and Republicans saying it merely codified existing federal law and corresponds to the will of the people on the topic of publicly-funded abortion.
Pro-life House Speaker John Boehner stood up in support of the bill. “A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the American people and ought to be the law of the land,” he said. “But the law, particularly as it is currently enforced, does not reflect the will of the people. This has created additional uncertainty given that Americans are concerned not just about how much we’re spending, but how we’re spending it.
“Enacting this legislation would provide the American people with the assurance that their hard-earned tax dollars will not be used to fund abortions.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) compared the bill to the totalitarian regime of George Orwell’s 1984, and warned that H.R. 3 would lead to IRS “abortion cops” interrogating whether a woman’s abortion met the rape exception requirement. Other Democrats echoed the “rape audit” argument as proof that the bill amounted to an “egregious” violation of women’s rights.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said the “rape audit” argument was “a theoretical, manufactured concern.”
“What the Democrats who have been raising this argument … prefer to overlook is that abortion is already deductible and has been for a long time,” said Johnson. “If somebody is really concerned that the IRS is going to start [abortion audits],” he said, “then they should be for this bill, because this greatly narrows the universe for which this can be done with.”
Pro-abortion Democrats such as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) noted that they opposed the annual Hyde amendment as well, but claimed that H.R. 3 went beyond it; others, such as Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) accused the GOP of imposing their “religious beliefs” on others through the bill.
Johnson argued that Democrats relied on “phony issues” with H.R. 3 because they “recognize very well how narrow and tenuous Hyde is, but they also know if they get to talking about that, then they’re arguing about the real core issue, where the public is almost 2 to 1 against them.”
The pro-life leader referenced a column in The Hill’s Congress Blog by Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress, who urged pro-abortion lawmakers to tackle the issue of taxpayer-funded abortion more directly.
“The only way to fight fire is with fire,” wrote Arons. “Unless pro-choice politicians step up to defend abortion funding now, this same fight will be repeated over and over, but with less and less room to maneuver each time.”
“I hope that her counsel is heeded and we’ll hear more talk about the real issues presented by the bill,” said Johnson.