This was a vote on final passage of legislation prohibiting federal funds—including tax credits and deductions--from being used for abortions or any health care coverage that includes abortion services.
The underlying bill provided for an exception to this prohibition for abortions resulting from rape or incest. However, the measure could also alter the federal definition of rape so as not to include statutory rape. (In other words, only sexual assaults that involved physical force would be recognized as rape under federal law.) The bill’s text does not redefine rape. However, the bill’s committee report—a report issued by the congressional committee that drafted the bill, and the document that would be used by the courts to determine Congress’ intent when interpreting the legislation—indicated that Congress had intended to use the narrow definition of “forcible rape.” In other words, if the underlying bill were to be contested in the courts, Congress would be on record as having redefined rape so to exclude all sexual assaults that do nonot involve physical force by the rapist.
In addition, the bill barred local tax revenue collected in the District of Columbia from being used for abortions.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) urged support for this bill: “Many Members and the American people have strong feelings about the subject of abortion, but one thing is clear: The Federal funding of abortion will lead to more abortions….The American people do not want federally funded abortions. A Zogby poll found that 77 percent of Americans feel that Federal funds should never pay for abortions or should pay only to save the life of the mother. That is the policy of the Hyde Amendment, which H.R. 3 would enact into law. H.R. 3 [the underlying bill] does not ban abortion. It also does not restrict abortions or abortion coverage in health care plans as long as those abortions or plans use only private or State funds. This legislation places no additional legal restrictions on abortions. It simply protects taxpayers from having to fund or to subsidize something they morally oppose.”
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also supported the bill: “…Today we are presented with an opportunity to take a giant step toward protecting the unborn. For almost 35 years, restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion have been enacted separately and have been contained in annually renewed congressional temporary funding restrictions, regulations and executive orders. Such policies have sought to ensure that the American taxpayer does not fund the destruction of innocent human life through abortion. The legislation on the floor today will end the need for numerous separate abortion funding policies, and will finally put into place a permanent ban on any U.S. government financial support for abortion.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-A) opposed the bill: “Imagine what life would be like for women under H.R. 3. Imagine you are pregnant and then diagnosed with breast cancer. Your doctor says that chemotherapy could save your life, but will permanently harm the baby. The diagnosis is devastating. But to add to your grief, because of H.R. 3, an abortion will not be covered by your private health insurance. You must pay out of pocket, even though it is necessary to save your life….This bill forces women to live their lives as if America was Orwell's 1984, where big brother Washington bureaucrats dictate the personal and private health decisions of American families.”
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) also opposed the bill: “Members who are pro-life or pro-choice should oppose this bill because it does violence to the Constitution. This bill purports to say that through the Tax Code, we can favor or disfavor the exercise of constitutional rights. That's not right, and that's not constitutional. The members on the majority side would certainly not support, nor would I, a provision that says you can't take a charitable contribution to support a group that lobbies in favor of pro-life causes. But if we wanted to disfavor that point of view in the Tax Code, this is the way we would do it. There is no difference between what the majority's doing here and that odious provision that I just described.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 251-175. Voting “yea” were 235 Republicans and 16 Democrats. 175 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation prohibiting federal funds—including tax credits and deductions--from being used for abortions or any health care coverage that includes abortion services. President Obama, however, had threatened to veto the measure if it were to reach his desk.