WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday to make federal funding of abortions permanent law, on a vote of 238-183, with just three Democrats supporting the legislation.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and is called the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act." Should it pass in the Senate, it would transform the Hyde Amendment — which prevents any federal dollars from funding abortion — into permanent law, instead of a provision that is added to individual spending bills, as it is now.
The bill contains exceptions for abortions for pregnancy resulting from rape and incest, as well as those that endanger the life of the mother.
The three House Democrats who supported the bill on Tuesday are Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, Illinois Rep. Dan LIpinski, and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson.
House Speaker Paul Ryan praised passage of the bill on Tuesday, saying in a statement, "we are a pro-life Congress." Noting that the March for Life, an annual gathering of anti-abortion-rights activists, will take place in DC this week, Ryan added, "we must never forget that defending all of our people — especially the defenseless — must be our top priority if we want to be a good and moral nation.”
The bill will now move to the Senate, where it would need the support of at least eight Democrats to pass — a bar it's unlikely to clear. The House passed similar bills in 2011, 2014, and 2015, with a Democratic president in office, but the Senate has yet to vote on any of them.
While there are a number of Democrats who support the Hyde Amendment — and even a few, such as Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who have introduced legislation codifying it themselves — other provisions in the bill are extremely unlikely to garner Democratic support in the Senate.
In addition to making the Hyde Amendment permanent, the bill would prohibit Americans from receiving federal healthcare subsidies or matching funds for plans that cover abortions, including under Medicaid.
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks got emotional when discussing the bill after Tuesday’s vote. “I know that America is divided by the issue of abortion, just like we were divided on the Civil War battlefield, in many ways along the same lines,” Franks told BuzzFeed News.
"But the real question is, does abortion kill a baby, if it is, then you and I in the land of the free and home of the brave are living in the midst of the greatest genocide in the history of the human family" he said, tears coming to his eyes.
The bill was not about "protecting those little babies," Franks added, but about "making sure that Americans [who] hold repugnant killing an innocent child do not have to pay for it."
The Hyde Amendment became a hot topic of debate during the 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton included a vow to repeal it as part of her platform.
Critics argue that the Hyde Amendment, first introduced in 1976, overwhelmingly affects low-income women who are reliant on Medicaid and other federally subsidized health insurance, leading Clinton and many Democratic legislators to argue that it is discriminatory.
Destiny Lopez, co-director of All Above All, a group devoted to repealing the Hyde Amendment, called the bill "part of the Trump-Pence agenda to punish women" in a statement on Tuesday.
"If anyone was wondering about the priorities of the new anti-woman Congress — they’ve shown their cards," Lopez said. "HR-7 is cruel and callous legislation that would make these discriminatory bans permanent law."
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter noted Tuesday that the vote comes on the hells of several pieces of anti-abortion legislation introduced and pushed over the past few days, including a bill banning abortions after a month and a half, a bill defining a fetus as a person under the law, and President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the global gag rule.
“Republican attacks on women’s reproductive health during the past 48 hours show that this weekend’s millions of demonstrators were right to be deeply worried,” Shea-Porter said in a statement, referencing the Women's March on Washington last weekend and warning abortion rights advocates to "stay on guard."