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Monday August 15th

US House passes bill prohibiting use of federal funding for abortion

The U.S. The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 7 on Tuesday — a bill that would permanently prohibit federal funding for abortion services if passed in the Senate and approved by President Donald Trump.

H.R. 7 also imposes tax penalties on small businesses that provide insurance plans which cover abortion care and blocks abortion coverage for civil servants, D.C. residents and members of the military.

The legislation codifies into law the existing Hyde Amendment — an amendment that is attached to individual federal appropriations bills and approved every year. If H.R. 7 passes the Senate and is signed into law by Trump, the Hyde Amendment will become permanent legislation and will not require an annual vote.

The Republican-led House passed the bill 238-183, with three Democrats joining Republicans in its passage.

The bill’s sponsor, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, said in a statement that the bill will save lives if passed.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives — all of whom are precious and irreplaceable,” he said. “It’s time to make it permanent law.”

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI, voiced his approval for the bill’s passing in a statement.

“This legislation protects the conscience of American taxpayers by ensuring that not a single dollar of their hard-earned money goes to fund abortions,” Ryan said.

The National Right to Life organization sent a press release in response to the vote.

“We are one step closer to getting the federal government out of the business of paying for abortion once and for all,” the statement said.

Pro-abortion groups, like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, argue the bill disproportionately disadvantages those who rely on federal funding for health care.

Under H.R. 7, abortion would not be covered by Medicaid. This would affect the nearly 17 million non-elderly women nationwide currently covered by Medicaid, 10 percent of whom live in North Carolina.

Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the bill is politically motivated.

“Most other medical procedures are covered by insurance, and if they’re not, it’s usually because they’re not considered medical procedures,” she said. “This, on the other hand, is not covered by insurance purely for political ideology.”

The bill’s passage comes at a time when opinions on abortion are especially pronounced. On Friday, the March for Life will protest against the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, which celebrated its 44th anniversary Sunday.

The Hyde Amendment does not entirely criminalize abortion, said Emily Hagstrom, co-chair of UNC’s Carolina Advocating for Gender Equality.

“At the end of the day, it just gets rid of abortions that are federally subsidized, so it mostly just gets rid of abortions that are for poor people,” Hagstrom said.

Echoing some of the concerns of pro-abortion groups, Hagstrom said the bill targets minority and low-income populations.

“It really just takes away reproductive health care from those who need it most,” she said. “It increases inequality of access.”

Hagstrom said the bill brings up more philosophical questions about choice.

“It’s really a discussion, in the end, of choices,” she said. “You know, whether or not you have the right to make that decision for yourself and your body.”

The legislation is identical to bills the House passed in 2014 and 2015, both of which were under the threat of veto from then-President Barack Obama.

But the Trump administration signaled its support for the bill Tuesday by issuing a Statement of Administrative Policy. The statement said that if the president is presented with H.R. 7, he will sign the bill.

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