House approves bill barring taxpayer money for abortions

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Story highlights

  • Democrats said the bill goes too far
  • The measure passed mostly along party lines, 238-183

Washington (CNN)The House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday barring the use of any taxpayer money for abortions, days before a large contingent of anti-abortion activists are scheduled to attend the annual March for Life in Washington.

The measure passed mostly along party lines, 238-183.
Currently, the so-called "Hyde Amendment," which is regularly attached to annual funding bills, already prohibits federal agencies from using funds for abortion services. The measure approved on Tuesday would make that amendment permanent.
    The amendment includes an exception for those abortions that are undertaken to protect the life of the mother or done in cases of rape or incest.
    "Making it (Hyde) permanent is not just important for the moral fiber -- fabric of our country, but you'll see millions more lives saved by us taking this important action," House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, told reporters Tuesday.
    But Democrats said the bill goes far beyond simply codifying an amendment that Congress has routinely tacked onto spending measures since 1976. Opponents insisted that the bill unfairly targets low-income and minority women, and blocks access to reproductive health services, even for those who want to pay for them out of their own pockets.
    "One of the things that I am just completely sick and tired of is men dictating to women as if we are stupid and cannot make informed choices for ourselves. Women are responsible. Women are smart. Women know what is best for them. And women can make their own choices," California Rep. Linda Sanchez told reporters Tuesday.
    The legislation also includes a provision that would ban anyone who obtains insurance through health care exchanges created by Obamacare and uses government subsidies from using those funds for plans that cover abortion services. Republicans are working to dismantle the health care law this year.
    But they decided to make it clear that during any transition period to a new system that Obamacare subsidies would be restricted. Some anti-abortion Democrats that backed Obamacare contend this issue was already addressed when then-President Barack Obama signed an executive order that stated that none of the taxpayer money could be used for abortion services. But anti-abortion groups have said the law isn't clear and there have been multiple legal challenges on how the law has been implemented.
    The House vote comes one day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating the so-called "Mexico City" policy. That move bans international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving any US government funding.
    "Who the hell are we in this chamber to make these private and often painful decisions for women?" Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern angrily apsked Republicans who backed the measure on the House floor.
    Throughout debate on the House floor, many House Democrats pointed to the demonstrations in multiple cities across the country on Saturday as evidence that the hundreds of thousands of women who marched emphasized abortion rights as a key issue where the GOP-led Congress was overstepping.
    But Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney countered, "We ourselves will be having a very large turnout this week," referring to Friday's March for Life. She also noted that the events on Saturday did not include representation from anti-abortion groups.
    Senate Republicans have not scheduled a vote on the abortion measure, and leaders say they are focused on confirming the president's cabinet appointments. But if the GOP does move to bring up the bill, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN there's "no chance it passes the Senate."