WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama last year told Americans he was sorry after it became clear that his oft-repeated claim, “If you like your insurance, you can keep it,” was demonstrably false.
Obama has been much slower, however, to admit fault for another dishonest claim: He secured the final votes for the Affordable Care Act from pro-life Democrats with the promise that federal funds would not be used to pay for abortions. In 2010, Obama signed an executive order toward that end—even as some Republicans said it wasn't worth the paper it was written on—but a new Kaiser Foundation study finds 6.1 million women will gain elective abortion insurance coverage through Obamacare, paid for in part by government subsidies.
The House on Tuesday voted to change that, passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act with a 227 to 188 bipartisan tally. The bill would bar taxpayer funding for abortion in Obamacare plans obtained after Jan. 1, 2015. In the interim, it would require insurance companies to clearly disclose which plans include abortion coverage.
“This is a victory for taxpayers, women, and their unborn children,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Today’s vote upholds our nation’s longstanding principle that no American should be forced to pay for other people’s abortions.”
The Republican-controlled House passed the bill with the help of only six Democrats, whose colleagues in the minority enacted procedural maneuvers to delay the vote until early evening—just hours before President Obama is set to give his State of the Union address in the House chamber. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., noted the irony of Democratic opposition to the bill, since almost every Democrat voted in favor of the same principle when Congress included the Hyde Amendment with the most recent appropriations bill.
Democrats insist the bill is unnecessary because of the long-standing existence of the Hyde Amendment, a federal abortion funding ban that’s been renewed every year since 1976. During the March for Life last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced the House would move forward with the legislation, even though it stands little chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The bill would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment and Obama’s executive order, but the White House has already threatened a veto if the legislation reaches the president’s desk.
“If President Obama was at all sincere when promising this protection in 2009, he should sign this legislation when it reaches his desk,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. She praised Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., for working on a bipartisan basis to author legislation she said is much needed: “The president and his administration should immediately stop this war on our nation’s founding principles.”
Smith said Americans were sold three lies about abortion coverage in Obamacare. First, no federal dollars would fund abortions. Second, HealthCare.Gov would clearly show which plans include abortion coverage. And third, people receiving federal funds would have to pay for abortions out of their own pockets.
“In the run up to passage of Obamacare, Americans were repeatedly told by President Obama himself, including in a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2009, that ‘under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions,’” Smith said. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “will make existing policies like the Hyde Amendment permanent—and will rid Obamacare of its massive expansion of public funding for abortion insurance plans.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who has filed companion legislation in the Senate, applauded the bill’s passage in the House, saying it "ensures that no loopholes or exemptions can be enacted to bypass these protections.”
Tuesday’s vote continues a trend of renewed commitment to pro-life issues in the Republican party. After losing the 2012 elections, many people, including Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said the GOP should back away from social issues such as abortion. Since then, the Republican-controlled House has passed several pro-life bills, including a nationwide 20-week abortion ban, and earlier this month Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus delayed the RNC’s winter meeting so members could attend last week’s March for Life.