House Republicans attached language to a major education bill Wednesday night that would financially penalize school districts that allow school-based health centers to provide information about abortion to pregnant high school students.
The amendment to the Student Success Act, a GOP overhaul of No Child Left Behind, would withhold federal funding from school districts that contract with health centers unless the center certifies that it will not provide abortions or give students any information about abortion, including directions to the nearest abortion provider. (School-based health centers already do not provide abortion services.)
The House Rules Committee slipped the new language into a part of the bill known as the "manager's amendment," which is normally reserved for non-controversial fixes to a piece of legislation that are agreed to ahead of time.
"This amendment is a cowardly attack on young people's access to the full range of information about their reproductive health care," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "This provision ties the hands of health care professionals in schools, and would deny teens access to important and basic information about their health care options."
"Once again, abortion opponents in the House went after women's health under the dark of night," Richards continued. "And because they know this attack on abortion is deeply unpopular, [they] won't take an actual vote on it."
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who authored the amendment, did not respond to a request for comment.
Republicans also tried to attach an anti-birth control amendment to the bill, but it was ruled out of order, or irrelevant to the main legislation. That amendment, authored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), would have prohibited federal funds to any school that provides emergency contraception, or a prescription for it, on the premises of a high school or elementary school. The "morning-after pill" is an example of such contraception.
The House is expected to vote on the education bill Friday. The bill would strip the federal government of much of its current power to lift up struggling schools in low-income districts, instead giving the states the authority to make such decisions.
The White House has said President Barack Obama will veto the bill if it passes, arguing that it "abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America's students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, and students of color."