Days after millions of people marched nationwide to bring attention to women’s issues, the Trump administration and Congress have responded with actions against women's reproductive rights.
On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. House passed H.R. 7, anti-abortion legislation, voting 238-183. The bill proposes to permanently ban women from receiving federal financial assistance for abortions. While the bill does not ban abortions outright, it bans all government subsidies of abortions. This ban reaches beyond Medicaid to include private insurers that cover abortions through plans bought on exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.
“Pro-life Americans struggle for the day when abortion violence will be replaced by compassion and empathy for women and respect for weak and vulnerable children in the womb,” the Republican congressman said on the House floor. “They believe, as do my pro-life colleagues and I, that we ought to love them both--mother and child--and not fund the destruction of children through abortion.”
The bill extends the provisions the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortions from federally funded health care provided to low-income people, primarily through Medicaid. The only exceptions in the Hyde Amendment to permit abortions are rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered.
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Most states have followed this provision, but 17 states still fund abortions for low-income women.
If H.R. 7 is signed into law, no state would be permitted to subsidize them. Furthermore, the law will indirectly stop insurance plans from offering abortion coverage by refusing government subsidies to women to choose plans that include abortion coverage under ACA.
“There is no chance this bill will pass the Senate,” said Matt House, senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "It won't gain enough Democratic support."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said it had no announcement to make about the legislation or when it might be taken up.
Identical versions of H.R. 7 were passed in 2014 and 2015, but never made it through the Senate and would have likely been vetoed by then-President Obama. However, if the bill passes in the Senate, President Trump could be expected to sign the bill into law, having voiced a strong anti-abortion stance on the campaign trail and through the revival of "The Mexico City Policy."
On Monday, President Trump reinstated the policy, which is an executive order blocking foreign aid or federal funding to any international nongovernmental organization that provides abortions. The “gag” order began with President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, incoming Democratic presidents have rescinded the order and incoming Republican presidents have reinstated the order upon taking office.
H.R. 7 comes on the heels of the Women’s March on Washington, which took place on Jan. 21 and expanded to sister marches in major cities across the country and around the world. A common theme in speeches and seen on signs at the marches was the phrase “my body, my choice,” referencing women’s reproductive health choices. One women's group, New Wave Feminists, was removed from the official sponsorship of the event after voicing anti-abortion views.
“Decisions about a woman’s health care should be made in her doctor’s office, not on the House floor,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement about H.R. 7. “The bill passed by the House is a sweeping assault on women’s health that aims to eliminate abortion coverage for millions, make Hyde and other abortion bans permanent and undermine a woman’s ability to make personal decisions about her own health care.”
Richards also said that the passage of H.R. 7 would disproportionately affect low-income women and women of color. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of abortion patients are poor or low-income women and 59 percent are women of color.
“The House of Representatives’ vote today on H.R. 7 was a vote to punish women who seek abortions on the basis of how much money they earn, where they live, and how they are insured,” Dr. Willie Parker, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “No woman should be denied the ability to make this personal health decision because she is poor.”