The United States is dealing with a major jobs crisis, the EU is teetering on the verge of collapse, and Americans are so frustrated with the financial sector that they’re willing to protest outside for a month or more, but Congress is busy debating whether or not to limit women’s access to abortion.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved the Protect Life Act, or H.R. 358, which would change the new health care law to prohibit federal funding from going toward health plans that cover abortion services and would also prevent funding from being withheld from institutions that oppose abortions. The bill includes an exception for abortions performed because of rape, incest, or a grave risk to the mother’s health, but it nonetheless limits abortion access in other cases.
The House approved the rule for the Protect Life Act in a 248-173 vote, taking a step toward passing the bill and opening up hours of debate. The general debate that followed was essentially a series of politicians using the opportunity to discuss why they are pro-choice or pro-life, rather than why they support the specific act in question. Some representatives did discuss the implications of the bill — including that a pregnant woman could potentially be denied appropriate treatment if she needs an emergency abortion — but such considerations clearly could not sway obstinate pro-life politicians. The act passed 251-172, with the vast majority of Republicans voting in favor and the vast majority of Democrats opposing it, unsurprisingly.
Even though the bill passed the House, it has a negligible chance of passing the Senate, and President Obama has already threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the White House. Given this information, Congress is essentially wasting time discussing abortion instead of focusing on more pressing issues. If nothing else, however, the bill is a reminder of what is at stake during elections, since politicians tend to vote on party lines on the abortion issue.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized the proposal, telling reporters before the vote Thursday, “Under this bill, when the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor of health care providers. … It’s just appalling. I can’t even describe to you the logic of what they are doing today.”
Of course, not understanding the logic of the House GOP is a common theme this session.