WASHINGTON -- A House committee gave abortion opponents a victory yesterday, voting to make it easier for hospitals, health insurers, and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions.
The Republican-run House Appropriations Committee added the provision to a spending bill by voice vote after legislators who support abortion rights, led by Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat of New York, concluded they lacked the votes to block it. The language would bar the bill's funds from going to federal, state, or local agencies that act against health care providers or insurers because they do not provide abortions, make abortion referrals, or cover them.
"This is an issue of conscience," said Representative Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida, who sponsored the language.
His amendment was added to a bill providing $142.5 billion next year for health, education, and labor programs. That total reflects a $3.1 billion, or 2 percent, increase over this year's spending. The committee approved the overall bill by voice vote, sending it to the full House.
The fate of the abortion provision in the Senate is unclear. The Senate has long been more inclined to support abortion rights than the House.
Weldon said his provision merely refined decades-old restrictions against federal aid for most abortions. But abortion-rights advocates said the language represented a major change in policy.