Speaking Thursday on the floor of the House during the debate over HR 358, the Protect Life Act (pdf), Colorado US Rep Diana DeGette, head of the pro-choice caucus, characterized the discussion as an absurd extension of one that has been going on for fifteen years. She said the bill is being positioned by supporters as a ban on federal funding for abortion but what it really aims to do is make abortions for a large segment of the country effectively illegal.
“There are some days in this congress where I feel like I’m in Alice in Wonderland, where logic has been turned on its head and we’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole,” she said. “Today is certainly one of those days. Here we stand on the 282nd day of the congress and the majority has not yet passed a jobs plan. We have spent all day long once again attacking women’s health with a bill that will never become law…”
The president has vowed to veto the bill and it is not likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, which voted down a similar bill earlier this session.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a release celebrated the bill and tied it to mainstreet pocket books. He implied it was a sort of insurance policy against tax-funded abortion. He also said it served as a signal to the public, bolstering the Republican brand as solidly anti-abortion.
“At a time when American families are facing enormous economic challenges, this bill ensures that their hard-earned dollars are not used to fund abortion coverage…. This bill demonstrates once again that our Republican Majority will always stand on the side of life.”
DeGette called on Republicans like Cantor to be more candid.
“There is no federal funding for abortion,” she said repeatedly, citing the Hyde Amendement, which effectively banned federal funding for abortion in the wake of Roe v Wade. The amendment was passed as an appropriations rider in 1976 and has been renewed every year since.
“When I listen to this debate, it’s really clear to me that the proponents of this bill, their main concern is not federal funding of abortion,” said DeGette. “Their main concern is they want abortion to be illegal, and so here’s my view– having debated this now for fifteen years in this body, here’s my view: If the majority wants to pass a bill banning abortion, pass a bill banning abortion and we’ll fight it out in the courts. Don’t make claims that there is somehow federal funding for abortion when in fact there is none in order to confuse the issues and to try to confuse the American public.”
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House 251 votes to 172. Fifteen Democrats crossed over to vote for the bill and three Republicans voted against it.