WASHINGTON - A House panel voted Thursday to limit tax breaks for insurance policies that cover abortions as House Republicans try to chip away at President Barack Obama's health overhaul.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 22-14 on a party-line vote to pass the bill, which would prevent people from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxable income. The bill also would prevent small businesses and taxpayers from using tax credits in the new health care law to provide or pay for insurance policies that cover the procedure.
If women pay for an abortion using tax-free income set aside in a health savings account, the money would have to be reported as taxable income. There would be exceptions for cases of rape or incest, or if a physician certified that a woman’s life would be in danger if she didn’t end the pregnancy.
All Republicans voted in favor of the bill and all Democrats voted against it. The bill now goes to the full House, where it is supported by GOP leaders. The bill, however, faces strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Current law bars federal money for abortion, with the same exceptions as those in the bill. The health overhaul creates state marketplaces for insurance known as exchanges, and allows participating plans to cover abortions, as long as they collect a separate premium from policyholders and that money is kept apart from federal subsidies.
The abortion language in the new law resulted from a compromise among Democrats that didn’t leave everyone happy. Republicans were united in opposing the overhaul. Now, with their efforts to repeal it stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Republicans are attacking it piece by piece.
Supporters say the bill is necessary because current law doesn’t go far enough in ensuring that no tax money is used to subsidize abortions. According to congressional estimates, the bill would raise only a negligible amount of tax revenue.
“The legislation is necessary because the Democrats’ health care law included a massive expansion of the IRS’ authority and concocted a host of ways to funnel taxpayer funds for various costs and procedures, including abortions,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the Ways and Means Committee chairman.