Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) is going on the record about the controversial abortion bill he co-sponsored in the House that would only allow pregnant women to obtain insurance coverage for an abortion if they were the victims of a so-called “forcible rape,” rather than other criminal sexual act.
In a statement sent to TPM, Lipinski says the intent of the abortion law — known in the House as H.R. 3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act — was to make permanent the existing limits on abortion in the federal code, including the existing exemptions for women who were raped. Lipinski suggests he will reexamine the issue as the bill moves forward.
“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski said in the statement. “Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.”
Lipinski is a chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, and one of the Democratic party’s most ardent opponents of abortion. H.R. 3 is a Republican-led effort to turn things like the Hyde Amendment — which is passed every year as part of the budget process — into permanent law. The bill would also make it harder for women to obtain abortion coverage from their private insurance companies by eliminating tax exemptions for employers or individuals who purchase health insurance plans that offer coverage for abortion. The rape clause in the bill would deny abortion coverage to victims of some types of rape in which the sexual assault is not accompanied by violence.
Under current federal law, woman who obtain their insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, the military, the Peace Corps or the Indian Health Services cannot use their insurance for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or if there is a risk to the life or health of the mother. According to the Center For Reproductive Rights, 7.4 million women of child-bearing age are covered by Medicaid; in 2006, Medicaid covered a total of 85 abortions for women who were raped, the victims of incest or who risked their health or life by continuing their pregnancies.
Yesterday, Lipinski’s office told TPM their policy was not to comment on the controversial law. Late last night, a member of Lipinski’s staff sent over this statement from the Congressman:
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 3, will eliminate the need for numerous separate annual abortion-funding prohibitions (called riders) and ensure that no program or agency is exempt from the long-standing ban on taxpayer funding of abortion. The bill also codifies the conscience clause known as Hyde-Weldon. H.R. 3 maintains the status quo prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion that has long been embodied in the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment allows for taxpayer funding of abortion in very limited cases, including if the pregnancy is the result of rape. The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so. Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.