KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Republicans Push Anti-Abortion Bills

Two bills have been introduced in the House but Senate Democrats vow to stop their progress if they clear the lower chamber.

The Washington Post: Abortion Debate Heats Up On Capitol Hill
A renewed - and heated - debate about abortion is underway one month into a congressional session that largely has devoted its energy to tackling economic issues. At the core of the discussion this week are two House Republican proposals that would expand restrictions on federal abortion funding (Sonmez, 2/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Push Anti-abortion Bills
Republicans focused their message on the economy during the last campaign, responding to voters' anxiety about jobs and government debt to the exclusion of just about everything else. Now, House Republican leaders, with the backing of social conservatives, are pushing ahead with a series of anti-abortion bills that will share the stage with jobs in this legislative session (Bendavid, 2/9).

NPR: GOP Takes Latest Abortion Fight To The Tax Code
House Republicans formally launch their latest effort to roll back abortion rights this week, and they're aiming squarely for the tax code. On the docket already are two bills: One would make permanent the decades-old "Hyde amendment," which is currently added every year to federal spending bills and bars most federal abortion funding. The other bill seeks to close what abortion opponents say are "loopholes" in last year's health overhaul that could permit federal funds to flow for abortions. But even before the first hearing on the measure, a group of Senate Democrats vowed that if either bill passed the GOP-stacked House, it wouldn't get through their chamber (Rovner, 2/9).

The Hill: Senate Dems Fear Abortion Vote
Senate Democrats are bracing for the possibility that the House Republican majority can force their hand on abortion legislation. House Republicans are focusing this week on legislation placing new restrictions on abortion, causing Senate Democrats to worry Republicans in the upper chamber will use a variety of legislative maneuvers to bring a vote to the floor. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) predicted Tuesday that Republicans would try to force a vote on abortion bills by attaching them as riders to must-pass legislation (Millman, 2/8).

Politico: Senate Dems Vow Abortion Bills Block
The Senate's fiercest abortion rights supporters vowed to block two measures Republicans are pushing in the House from passage in the upper chamber. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters "I do think we'll have 41" votes necessary to block legislation backed by some members of House GOP leadership that would further restrict federal funds for abortions. Boxer was referring to a procedural maneuver that would require 60 votes to get a bill to the floor (Toeplitz, 2/8).

Roll Call: Planned Parenthood Moves To Head Off Abortion Bills
Facing a wave of activity by anti-abortion House Republicans, Planned Parenthood this week is launching a national grass-roots effort to try to derail a trio of abortion bills. "The House leadership is clearly out of touch with the American people, as they are continuing to focus on legislation that takes away health care women currently have instead of focusing on jobs and the economy," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement announcing the new campaign. "The objective of these bills is to undermine women's access to health care" (Ackley, 2/8).

CQ HealthBeat: GOP Bill To Limit Insurance Tax Breaks For Abortion Coverage Reignites Touchy Issue At House Hearing
Whether employers and patients should continue to get tax breaks for health insurance if their plans cover abortion is at the center of a debate unfolding late Tuesday afternoon as lawmakers consider a Republican bill that would limit such benefits. The measure (HR 3), sponsored by Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., will be dissected at a late-afternoon House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing. Critics say it will motivate private health insurers to stop offering insurance that includes abortion coverage, fundamentally altering the benefits that were provided to Americans after the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion (Adams, 2/8).

PBS News Hour: Republicans Rekindle Abortion Debate On Capitol Hill
In one of his first news conferences as speaker of the House, John Boehner announced that one of his top legislative priorities was a bill to make a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion permanent, in addition to rescinding tax benefits for health care plans that cover abortion, sponsored by staunch abortion rights opponent Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., it has 173 cosponsors in the House. That bill, known as H.R. 3 or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, along with the Protect Life Act introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., are both getting hearings this week on Capitol Hill, reigniting a public fight over abortion rights. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., has also introduced a bill to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal dollars (Bowman, 2/8).

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