Last week, an all-male Congressional subcommittee took up the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” or HR 7, a far-reaching package of abortion restrictions. HR 7 would permanently ban low-income women in the District of Columbia from using their Medicaid plans for abortion care, incentivize business owners to drop private insurance coverage for abortion, increase taxes on some women who choose to have an abortion, and empower the IRS to conduct audits of rape survivors to ensure they’re not claiming sexual assault to evade extra taxes.
HR 7 is moving quickly, and is being marked up by the full Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. But Democratic lawmakers and pro-choice activists aren’t allowing the bill to move forward without putting up a fight.
On Wednesday, immediately before the mark-up of the bill, group of lawmakers and activists held a press conference to protest the proposed abortion restrictions. Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee joined the leaders of the House Pro-Choice Caucus — along with representatives from several reproductive rights organizations — outside of the House Judiciary Hearing room.
The lawmakers emphasized that the event was intended to highlight House Republican’s reckless agenda against women’s reproductive rights. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), one of the co-chairs of the Pro-Choice Caucus, noted that HR 7 is simply “designed to take away a woman’s access to the health care she needs.”
“It is neither justifiable nor necessary to prevent public funding of abortion,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) added.
And Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who has repeatedly attempted to prevent Republicans in Congress from using the District of Columbia as their legislative playground, slammed HR 7 for singling out DC. The legislation will permanently prohibit DC from spending its own local funds to cover abortion services for low-income women, even though the individuals who actually live in the city are opposed to that abortion ban, Holmes Norton pointed out.
Several lawmakers have also pointedly criticized the fact that a group of men is currently debating women’s right to access affordable abortion services. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) all circulated an image of the Republican men who serve on the Judiciary Committee and wondered why there aren’t any women weighing in on HR 7:
Elected officials are also voicing their opposition to the proposed abortion bill in official statements addressed directly to their Republican colleagues.
Last week, a group of Democratic congresswomen wrote a scathing memo to the GOP caucus in the House, referring to HR 7 as a “dead-end bill” that doesn’t accomplish anything to actually make women healthier. “The time has come to stop wasting taxpayers’ time and dollars waging attacks on women’s constitutionally protected right to make informed health care decisions about their own bodies with their own doctors and work on an actual legislative agenda for women’s actual needs,” they wrote.
And on Monday, a group of female lawmakers who serve on the full House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to the committee chairman, denouncing his decision to hold a mark-up of the legislation this week. “As we urge Congress in 2014 to consider legislative action that would meaningfully address the economic insecurity currently facing millions of women and families, the Judiciary Committee’s first action to mark up legislation that would harm women’s access to reproductive health care is truly dispiriting,” the Congresswomen wrote. “It is clear to us that HR 7’s denial of abortion coverage to women will put some women’s health at serious risk.”