In the most recent case of the Republican war on reproductive rights, the US House of Representatives last week approved a bill that would allow federally funded hospitals that oppose abortion to refuse to perform the procedure — even when a woman would die without it.

The bill, known as H.R. 358, would also ban federal funding for health care plans that merely include abortion coverage. This would go a step beyond existing law, which disallows federal dollars from being spent directly on abortions.

(Note: see my previous post on this bill here).

H.R. 358 passed 251-170 after an emotional debate on the House floor. One lawmaker, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), said she once faced a situation in which an abortion was medically necessary.

“I was pregnant, I was miscarrying, I was bleeding. … If I had to go from one hospital to the next trying to find one emergency room that would take me in, who knows if I would even be here today. What my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to do is misogynist.”

Fortunately, H.R. 358 is nothing more than an act of political grandstanding. The Democrat-controlled Senate will almost certainly reject the bill, and President Barack Obama has made it clear that he would veto it:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 358 because, as previously stated in the Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3, the legislation intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that women and their families have today.

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 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 President’s Executive Order 13535 reinforces that Federal funding cannot be used for abortions (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and ensures proper enforcement of this policy. H.R. 358 goes well beyond the safeguards found in current law and reinforced in the President’s Executive Order by restricting women’s private insurance choices.

If the President is presented with H.R. 358, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

That is good to hear, but I think most people would prefer if this bill never reached Obama’s desk to begin with. If you agree, the best thing to do is send a message to your Senator. You can find him or her by clicking here.

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