On Tuesday, the House passed a bill banning the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., prohibits insurance plans sold in the new healthcare exchanges from providing coverage for abortion. It also gets rid of tax benefits for small businesses that purchase insurance plans covering abortion.
The Hyde Amendment already prohibits the use of federal taxpayer dollars for abortion, which had led House Democrats to dismiss the legislation as a "message bill" intended to appeal to religious conservatives.
But Republicans say the new bill has real importance because it also addresses the use of tax credits to buy health insurance, which the Hyde Amendment does not do.
"Under Obamacare, billions of dollars in the form of tax credits are today buying abortion-subsidizing health insurance plans in exchanges throughout the country," Smith said last week at the March for Life rally in Washington. "For examples, of the 112 health insurance plans available to Congress and staff, most, that is, 103 plans pay for abortion on demand."
The vote was 227-188, and the bill now moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which is not expected to take up the bill. In a statement released Monday, the White House said the President would veto the bill if it did pass the Senate.
After the vote, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told reporters, "The President promised that 'under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.' We know now that was a lie, and this bill corrects his broken promise. We should not be taxing Americans and forcing them to fund a violation of their religious freedom."
Not all lawmakers agreed the bill was a good idea. Two weeks ago, as the bill was being debated in the House Judiciary Committee, female Democrats in the house protested in the hallway outside the committee room.
"It is increasingly evident that the only women's agenda that the Republicans have put forward is to take away your health care rights and then tell you to get lost," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. "Women are sick and tired of these constant attacks on our constitutionally protected right to chose while priorities like equal pay, fair wages and paid family leave go unaddressed."
Protestors were also concerned that the House subcommittee only included men. Some of them held signs reading, "Where are the women?"
Like Congress, Americans are divided on the issue of abortion. A recent poll by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project found that 54 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 40 percent believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Religious people, however, were found to be less supportive of abortion than the rest of the public. Among people who attended religious services at least once a week, 70 percent said abortion was morally wrong as compared to 32 percent among people who seldom or never attended services.
Among religious groups, white evangelicals were the demographic mostly likely to oppose abortion.