Discuss as:

Abortion, back to center stage in the House

Abortion is back -- again -- as a central issue for the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

The House is considering H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” NBC’s Luke Russert reports. The bill would do the following:

"No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act -- which expands the ban on federal subsidies for abortion to prohibit government subsidization of health plans that cover abortion services and prevent the use of tax breaks to help underwrite abortion costs. It would also prohibit any federal health care facility -- including those in the District of Columbia -- and any doctor paid by the federal government from providing abortion services."

It is expected to pass the House later today in the afternoon. But it likely has no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law, since Democrats control the Upper Chamber. However, during negotiations on another bill -- budget, debt limit etc. – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could demand and up-or-down vote on the bill.

“I say with true regret and sadness that President Obama has been, sadly, the abortion president,” claimed Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) during debate on the House floor, NBC’s Shawna Thomas reports. He added, "ObamaCare for example, where there was an opportunity under the Stupak-Pitts amendment to take abortion completely out of his healthcare reform package did not and now one of the things that this legislation will do is to ensure that whether it be the community health centers or the exchanges or the high risk pools which have the very thing veneer of an executive order which is not binding... would ensure that there's no taxpayer funding for abortion in any of those instances either."

Yet, as NBC’s Mark Murray reported in March 2010, even before the final legislation passed:

From pages 2,071-2,072 of the health-care bill: "If a qualified health plan provides coverage of services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i)" -- i.e., abortion -- "the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services. …

What's more, the Senate bill explicitly ensures that Americans who receive federal subsidies under the reform plan must pay separately for abortion coverage. Here's pages 2,074-2,075: "In the case of a plan to which sub paragraph (A) applies, the issuer of the plan shall collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee's age, sex, or family status) a separate payment" that "may not estimate such a cost at less than $1 per enrollee, per month."

Here's the kicker: Under the Senate bill, due to Nelson's changes, states can choose NOT to offer abortion coverage in the health exchange. Page 2,069: "A State may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State is such State enacts a law to provide for such prohibition." And those states that do not prohibit abortion coverage must provide a choice of health plans on the exchange that include abortion coverage and don't include abortion.

Furthermore, the president signed an executive order on March 24, 2010 -- after he signed the legislation into law -- that stated the following:

Section. 1. Policy. Following the recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Act"), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this order is to establish a comprehensive, Government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors -- Federal officials, State officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers -- are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

It’s also not clear if there is any actual data Smith uses to back up his claim that President Obama is “the abortion president.” The Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute (which also tracks abortions) do not have any more recent information on the number of abortions in the United States than 2007 and 2008, respectively.

*** UPDATE *** The White House issued a veto threat on H.R. 3.