A House markup of a budget bill turned into a heated and emotional debate about abortion rights on Wednesday morning when a Republican congressman introduced a controversial anti-abortion amendment.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) offered an amendment to the fiscal 2015 financial services and general government appropriations bill that would prohibit funding for abortions through multistate health plans offered under Obamacare.
Democratic congressmen immediately balked at the amendment, noting that the long-standing Hyde amendment already prohibits federal funds from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger. The Affordable Care Act also contains a provision requiring a woman to pay a separate surcharge for abortion coverage if the plan she chooses through the state exchanges offers it.
"Apparently those provisions, which were written by anti-choice legislators, are inadequate for extremists hell bent on denying safe and legal health services to women, even through private insurance plans," said House Appropriations ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (N.Y.). "Frankly, I'm baffled by the hypocrisy in this policy. It's intellectually dishonest to say we need a more limited government, and then intentionally use the reach of the federal government to restrict a woman's ability to purchase an insurance plan of her choosing."
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said her GOP colleagues lack respect and trust for women, both inside and outside Congress, and are obsessed with women's bodies.
"I think we ought to just try to set aside some dollars for a study of this perverse obsession with women's reproductive systems that exists on the other side of the aisle," DeLauro said. "They appear not to be able to help themselves, and it's staggering what they are prepared to do to wreak havoc on women's lives."
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) stood up to defend himself.
"Go ask my wife if I have a lack of trust in her judgment, if I have a lack of respect for her because she is a woman, because that is simply not true," Stewart said. "I've been told that as a man, I can't make a moral judgment about [abortion], simply because I am a man ... Whether you're a man or whether you're a woman, we all have a responsibility to make moral judgments, and that's all we're asking to do here today."
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) responded to Stewart, saying that while everyone in Congress was raised with different morals and values, "there's nowhere in the Constitution that says we impose our values on other people."
The anti-abortion amendment passed by a vote of 29-21.