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Old 01-22-2015
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Default House votes to block federal funding of abortion

By Natalie Villacorta

1/22/15 1:38 PM EST

Updated 1/22/15 5:40 PM EST

President Barack Obama lashed out at House passage Thursday of a bill that would permanently prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion. The House easily passed it after GOP leaders had to cancel a vote on another bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which got caught up in a fight about exemptions for rape victims.

“I believe that efforts like H.R. 7, the bill the House considered today, would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today,” Obama said in a statement. “The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families and their doctors.”

The House vote took place on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Anti-abortion protesters had come to Washington for the annual March for Life.

More than 50 angry march participants showed up outside the office of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who pulled her co-sponsorship of the 20-week ban because of the requirement that rape victims report the crime to law enforcement authorities in order to obtain an exemption.

“It was her objection that led to this and she has caused a major pro-life victory, probably the biggest one of this decade, to be torpedoed over a distinction that makes no difference,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition, one of the protesters.

“Renee Ellmers has abandoned the unborn babies in the world for some sort of political maneuvering that no one can understand or has heard an explanation for yet,” Fitzgerald continued.

The 20-week ban passed the House in 2013 but faces hurdles in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham — the sponsor of the Senate’s version — said Thursday that he did not realize his bill required women to report their rape to law enforcement, and he plans to change that language. Thirteen states have also passed these 20 week bans — three of which have been blocked in court — with backers arguing that a fetus can feel pain at that point in a pregnancy. Only one of these states, Arkansas, explicitly allows for exemptions in the case of rape or incest.

The House did easily pass H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). White House advisers said they would recommend a veto should the bill reach the president’s desk.

The Hyde Amendment already prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, except in cases of incest, rape and life endangerment of the mother. That is passed every year as part of an appropriations bill, but this bill would make that permanent law.

The House bill would also restrict small businesses from getting an Affordable Care Act tax credit if they purchase employee health plans that include abortion coverage on the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange.

Today marks the third time the House has passed the bill.
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