A new U.S. House bill introduced Thursday seeks to permanently ban federal funding of abortion across all federal agencies.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduced the bipartisan legislation, titled the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," that, if passed, would ensure no tax dollars pay for abortions – with the exception of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother – under federal health programs. It also grants conscience protections to health care providers who do not want to participate in an abortion.
The current Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding of abortions, must be passed by Congress each year as an additional provision to spending bills.
"We applaud Congressman Smith and numerous Members on both sides of the aisle for responding to the concerns of the American people by introducing a measure that applies an abortion funding ban across the federal government," said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council, in a statement.
The issue of federal funding of abortion has been highly divisive in Washington and among Americans. At many points during the healthcare debate, it threatened to derail reform efforts. The issue reemerged earlier this month when the National Right to Life Committee reported that Pennsylvania's "high-risk" insurance program, established under the new healthcare law, would subsidize elective abortions.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service confirmed in a report released Wednesday that neither the health care legislation nor the executive order specifically prohibited federal funding of abortion in high-risk insurance pools
Amid public outcry, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new regulation that clearly prohibits state high-risk pools from covering abortion except in the case of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger because of the pregnancy.
The Obama administration maintained that the restriction is consistent with federal law and shows that the president's executive order on federal funding of abortion is effective.
However, abortion rights groups were shocked by the new restriction, saying it went further than required by federal law or the executive order. Under the new restriction, women in high-risk pools cannot have an elective abortion even if they pay for it with private funds.
"I think the administration got it wrong," said Jessica Arons, director of women's health at the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy think tank, according to The Associated Press. "They have imposed a ban on abortion coverage in the high-risk pools and nothing in the law requires that action."
McClusky, meanwhile, contended, "The American people, regardless of their views of abortion's legality, should not be forced to pay for someone's abortion."
Also in support of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, commented, "Congress can act now and fix this problem once and for all."