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House panel defeats pro-life amendment to health bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–A pro-life effort to prohibit funding of abortion in health-care reform failed in the House of Representatives Budget Committee March 15.

The committee voted 19-17 against an amendment to instruct that the pro-life language be included in a reconciliation bill the full House may consider in the next few days. The amendment called for inclusion of what is known as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which would prohibit federal funds from paying for abortions or subsidizing plans that cover abortions.

The Budget Committee forwarded the reconciliation bill, which provides “fixes” to the Senate-approved, health-care measure, by a 21-16 vote.

Three Democrats — Reps. Marion Berry of Arkansas, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island — voted with all but one Republican on the committee to call for the Rules Committee to include the pro-life amendment. Rep. Scott Garrett, R.-N.J., did not vote.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R.-Ohio, offered the amendment, telling the committee the language in the health-care bill approved by the Senate “represents the largest threat to innocent human life since Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court” in 1973.

Jordan’s amendment duplicated the language crafted by Reps. Bart Stupak, D.-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., and approved by the House before passage of the overall bill in November. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment maintains the current policy preventing federal funds from funding insurance plans that cover abortion.

Senators, however, refused to approve pro-life language like that of Stupak-Pitts. Stupak, Pitts and most other pro-lifers contend the Senate version, which was passed in December, would involve the government in the funding of abortion in a number of ways. They say, for instance, that federal funds would subsidize abortions and provide $7 billion to community health centers without any provision restricting the money from being used for abortions.

Pro-lifers contend that the country’s abortion rate could go up if the bill passes, because women who are either uninsured or who have policies that don’t cover abortion will be able to purchase policies that do cover it, thanks to federal subsidies.

“The will of [the House] on this amendment is clear,” Jordan said before the panel’s vote on his proposal. “It would be irresponsible for this committee to pass out our reconciliation instructions without this important amendment included.”

House leaders are seeking to gain enough votes to pass the Senate bill and the reconciliation bill before President Obama leaves the country March 21. Majority Whip James Clyburn, D.-S.C., has acknowledged the Democrats still have not accumulated the 216 votes needed for passage, according to Politco.com. According to CNN.com, they reportedly have around 200 “yes” votes.”

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is urging pro-lifers to contacts their representatives through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or the House’s website at www.house.gov.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, with reporting by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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