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Posted at 1:32 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Lawmakers spar on abortion ahead of two House committee hearings

By Felicia Sonmez

As key committees prepare to debate two House Republican-sponsored bills on abortion funding this week, Senate Democrats on Tuesday took aim at the GOP proposals as "extreme" and charged that they are a distraction from Congress's top priority of kick-starting the economy.

"We're here today to send a clear message to our Republican colleagues on the House side: Your agenda on women's health is extreme. It breaks faith with a decades-long bipartisan compromise. And according to medical experts, your agenda risks the health and the lives of women," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said at a Capitol news conference.

Boxer was joined by several other Democratic lawmakers including Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Al Franken (Minn.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.). The gathering was the first of two Democratic-led news events Tuesday aimed at pushing back against the two abortion-funding bills, which are slated to be taken up by House committees this week.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee's Constitution Subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 3, known as the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on H.R. 358, the "Protect Life Act," sponsored by the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).

Judiciary Committee Democrats and representatives from several pro-abortion-rights groups are holding a news conference ahead of Tuesday's hearing on H.R. 3, which they denounce as "unacceptable attack on a woman's right to choose and a distraction from the economic relief that Americans expect from Congress."

Both measures would expand restrictions on federal abortion funding. The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would eliminate tax breaks for abortions and permanently prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal programs by codifying the Hyde Amendment, which is typically renewed annually. It would also reinstate a ban on D.C. abortion funding, a move that some have contended would infringe on the district's right self-government.

The "Protect Life Act" would prohibit federal funding of abortions under the national health care overhaul. It also would prevent funding from being withheld from institutions that are opposed to providing abortions.

Abortion-rights advocates charge that the measures would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions in cases where the woman's life is threatened. They also argue that the bills go too far in prohibiting women from using their own private money to obtain insurance that covers a range of reproductive care.

In addition, the Smith bill sparked controversy through its use of the term "forcible rape," which women's rights groups charged was an attempt to change the definition of rape. The term was dropped from the bill last week.

The heated emotions surrounding the abortion debate were on display at Tuesday's Senate Democratic news conference. Lautenberg said the Pitts and Smith bills sound "like a third-world country that's requiring women to wear head shawls, cover their faces even if they don't want to do it."

Blumenthal, a freshman senator who served as Connecticut's attorney general for two decades, noted that he's new to the Senate, but "not new to this battle."

"Since the days of Roe v. Wade when I clerked for Justice Blackmun, as a state legislator, as attorney general, I have fought this battle, and I can tell you that this measure is an unprecedented assault on women's health," Blumenthal said. "It creates reprehensible risk to the health of countless women across the country. It puts them in jeopardy of losing vital health services that imperil not just them, but their families."

Slated to testify at Tuesday's hearing are Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law and policy and chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services; and Family Research Council senior fellow Cathy Ruse.

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 8, 2011; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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I think that health care reform is a great idea. I have type 1 diabetes and for me to get insurance, it was a nightmare until I found "Wise Health Insurance" search for them online and you can get affordable health insurance instantly.

Posted by: martyqick | February 9, 2011 5:23 AM | Report abuse

I am a woman with a Masters degree who has worked since she was 16 years old. I have paid into the system my entire life, conservatively tens of thousands of dollars but most likely well into 6 digits after all of the years I have had a percentage of my pay taken by the Federal and state government for taxes.

If I end up buying into a Federal insurance plan, I will also financially contribute to this plan as well. Currently, I pay thousands of dollars a year for my health insurance, and considering that I have a good job with a higher than average salary, I would most likely pay more for health care under a Federal plan.

If I am raped, or am pregnant and find out I am carrying a baby with birth defects, or make the decision for ANY REASON to terminate a pregnancy (that is no one's business but mine, and that I need to discuss with no one but my personal physician), I have an absolute right to this legal medical procedure. I'm not asking anyone else to pay for it. I've paid more than my fair share of taxes, and if I participate in a Federal health care plan, I will pay my fair share of that as well.

I am sick and tired of conservatives discussing tax money as if their contribution is personally going to pay for an abortion. My money contributes to the system, too, and statistically I probably make more money than you do. And therefore pay higher taxes than you do. And have a right to complete health care in a system to which I contribute.

I'm not asking you to pay for my abortion, or that of a poor woman. I've already paid for it. Over and over and over again. With my taxes and insurance premiums.

My guess is that a Federal health care system that requires participation, but prohibits a legal health care procedure to over 50% of the population based on gender, but does not allow members of that population to opt out of a a system that discriminates against them, will not stand up under judicial review.

So stop posting that YOUR tax money won't pay for abortions. You're absolutely correct. It won't.

Posted by: CAC2 | February 8, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Those who wrote HR3 represent the American Taliban....bottom line...keep'em barefoot, pregnant,and dumb.....and wrap their heads in yards of cloth....fundamentalist to the core....

Posted by: jfristriut | February 8, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Good. No one should be forced to pay for someone else's abortion. If libs don't like it, start taking up collections.

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 8, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I watched the hearings. What a joke. The Republicans quickly went off the reservation and started talking anti-abortion trash, totally irrelevant to the issue of tax funding. Rep King of Iowa started yammering about the gross methods used to suction a fetus and had the child-like temerity to ask a law professor about her views on morals pertaining to medical procedure, instead of legal issues and tax issues that she had been called to discuss.

The Republican members on this committee have, so far, shown they are incompetent and foolish, with no clear reason to be offering this bill. It has no merit other than to allow these snakes to spit out their anti-choice, anti-women philosophy and appear on C-Span, so the whole country can see what a fool looks like.

Posted by: bruce19 | February 8, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Abortion is a very loaded issue and frankly one that the Federal Government should not involve themselves with. I completely disagree with Federal funding going towards abortions. Abortion should be a State's issue and let each State decide on their own. The Federal government has no business being involved.

Posted by: Jsuf | February 8, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

House Republicans have spent No Time on Jobs this term, but struggle with "Kill and Not replace" Affordable Health Care Law, fetus medical citizenship determinations, whether humans are "Divinely Created" ... etc, etc..

The "Kill Affordable Healthcare Law" extremists are smelling Blood! Since Congress convened not a minute on JOBS, all efforts to Kill and Not Replace Healthcare Law?

Tea Party conservative Florida Gov Scott promised to "create 700,000 jobs" in 4 years... announces a Budget "cutting 9,000 state jobs", and cutting $ 3 Billion from Florida Education?

Extremist Scoot believes you "Cure a Lame State Economy by Shooting a $ 3 Billion Hole in the Other Front Leg"?

Florida’s public schools and universities will take a more than $3 billion hit under the budget proposed Monday by Gov. Rick Scott, with public elementary through high school spending dropping by nearly $300 per student.

Scott has promised to trim the state work force, a distant echo of JEB Bush's barn-burner of an inauguration speech in 1999, when he dreamed of a day with less government: "There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers."

Reactionary Businessman Scott also plans Medicaid cuts of $ 2 Billion over two years.

The Florida Tea Party Health Plan is now:
"If you cannot afford private corporate health insurance, Just Die"

Posted by: rmcnicoll | February 8, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

The government has no business intruding into a woman's doctor's office when they are discussing her body.

Most of my voting life (40+ years), I have voted Republican, and I have much company when I say there are many Republican men and women who do not support the far right wing bats' view on abortion.

If you are opposed to abortion, then don't have one.

Posted by: asmith1 | February 8, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

To Hanocul6----There's a difference between babies and fetuses---I'm not getting into a religious thing here--but until a fetus can live outside its mother's body, it is not a baby. No one thinks abortion is a good thing. However,if a woman is careless enough to get pregnant accidently and of course in the case of incest, rape or fetal problems, she should have the right to take steps to either terminate the pregnancy (early) or seek adoption advice. These are the facts. So you can keep on talking about 'human beings' and 'destruction of life' or looking for political arguments but that won't change the facts.

Posted by: amac3 | February 8, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Invite the government into your bedroom, have them manage your choice to have sex or not. Have them monitor your behavior to make sure that you are a suitable vessel for fertilization and pregnancy, require your doctor to register your pregnancy in case anything goes wrong so that murder charges can be considered.

Never mind about birth defects, miscarriages, or your health. A woman's primary value to society is as a vessel for potential life.

You can get heart cells to beat on a tissue culture plate, so?

Beware ladies, their bizarre and extreme religious fantasies will NOT set you free.

Posted by: thebobbob | February 8, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Where in this article is any critical analysis of the statements of some of the Democratic lawmakers, or any discussion of the Republican side of the argument? I thought one-sidedness was reserved for FOXNews.

Posted by: longbow1 | February 8, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Republicans will never make abortion illegal. If they did, they would lose their hold on a lot of people who otherwise would vote Democratic. So they are just posturing.

The culture wars have always helped the Conservatives.

Who is going to support the children with birth defects when their parents get old and can no longer do so?

Posted by: samsara15 | February 8, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

funny how the republicans rant so often about how the government limits freedom etc., yet they're the first in line to limit the rights of others, specifically the right to choose.

Posted by: larryclyons | February 8, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The GOP and Dems play these little games to distract us from the real issues like we're broke!

Posted by: FLvet | February 8, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

If you are going to stop funding for abortions, you should have to provide adequate funding for all the unwanted children in foster care and orphanages and finally adult education to the age of twenty-six. Let us not forget to find Mother's and father's for all these unwanted children to be nborn in America.

It sucks being born and to die with NO family. I am only 57, but I have another thirty-five to forty years to go with no parents, family or anyone that cares about me. i am now 57, and i grew up i n orphamnges and foster homes, i ran away at sixten and was homeless after that ntil my mid thirties.

Put a line item budget for us orphans and unwanted and I bet that is less than what you guys want to spend on abortions. Go figure.

Just put us in the streets and let us fend for ourselves as we have for two hundred years now dealing with pedaphiles, pimps, etc. Thanks for not caring for the unwanted children of America. We have NO LOBBY or PAC.

Posted by: patmatthews | February 8, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Only women should be allowed to vote on this topic.

The morning after pill should be more widely accepted. That would stop a lot of the controversial abortions.

The victim of forcible rape should have the choice as to whether they have an abortion or not.

Otherwise, I would stay away from abortion like the plague.

But if we make it very hard to have an abortion in all cases then more and more religions should step up to the plate and adopt.

Posted by: LL314 | February 8, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Abortion kills human beings. And it is ironic that any person should have a right to choose to kill a human being.

Felicia Sonmez writes:("Senate Democrats on Tuesday took aim at the GOP proposals as "extreme" and charged that they are a distraction from Congress's top priority of kick-starting the economy.")
--So if tax payer funds are not used for abortion, would that not free up these funds to be better used elsewhere? Sounds like basic economics to me--.

Barbra Boxer: ("We're here today to send a clear message to our Republican colleagues on the House side: Your agenda on women's health is extreme. It breaks faith with a decades-long bipartisan compromise. And according to medical experts, your agenda risks the health and the lives of women,")
--Ms Boxer your stretching and spinning the truth. There is no compromising with the life of a human being. And what medical experts are you referring to? How does abortion save lives when on the contrary it stops a heartbeat and destroys life. And how does abortion improve a woman's health? It's idiotic when many of these destroyed (aborted) are female.--

Posted by: hanocul6 | February 8, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Republicans: you campaigned on jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs. Thought you might appreciate a reminder, since it looks like you forgot.

Posted by: fishyken | February 8, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Did you seriously think that Republicans were going to focus on jobs or fixing the economy? LOL! The only way they can rip our government apart while enacting big government social legislation is by destroying our economy. We're back to "starve the beast" which is all about bringing about the economic collapse of the United States. Economic collapse is the only way they will ever get a chance at robbing Americans of the Social Security and Medicare that they have paid for.

Posted by: paulflorez | February 8, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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