This article first appeared online at National Journal on October 12, 2011.
Obama Promises to Veto Abortion Bill
By Meghan McCarthy
President Obama threatened on Wednesday to veto any bill that would restrict insurers from paying for abortions, saying it goes too far.
“Longstanding federal policy prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered,” the White House said in a statement.
“The Affordable Care Act preserved this prohibition and included policies to ensure that federal funding is segregated from any private dollars used to fund abortions for which federal funding is prohibited.”
The House is scheduled to take up the bill on Thursday. This bill, like the other antiabortion legislation passed earlier this year, will almost certainly pass the House but won’t get anywhere in the Democratic–controlled Senate.
Senate Republicans have even failed to force a floor vote on any of the House-passed antiabortion legislation, including a bill from Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., that permanently bans the use of federal funds for abortions. Instead, these pieces of legislation are negotiating chips Republicans can potentially attach to must-pass bills.
“It seems like whenever there’s a lull in the action, the House brings out some antiwoman thing,” Judy Waxman, vice president of health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, said in an interview. “They now have a whole list of antiwoman legislation they have in their back pocket passed by the House … and they really do intend to attach to some pieces of legislation that must pass.”
And that’s exactly what antiabortion advocates would like to see.
“That’s the question that we are currently asking. We are looking over at the Senate, to those who said, ‘You didn’t believe in public funding in abortion. Now’s your chance to codify it,’ ” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in an interview. “It’ll be a gut check for the Republican leadership whether it gets to the floor for a vote.”
But the bill “goes well beyond the safeguards found in current law,” the White House said.