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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 358, Protect Life Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, the Protect Life Act amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to prohibit Federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services or any health plan that includes such service. It also imposes new restrictions on health insurance coverage for termination care and expands conscience protection laws, while limiting access to reproductive health services.

At a time when our Nation is facing great economic uncertainty and millions of Americans are in need of jobs, please, somebody tell me why we are here considering a bill that is a direct attack on a woman's constitutionally protected right to choose and that does not create one single job.

Let's be serious here. Republicans have yet to pass a jobs bill. Instead of getting down to the business of creating jobs, they're bringing to the House floor a deeply flawed and deeply divisive bill that will not pass the Senate and would be vetoed if it reached the President's desk. They know that. I know that. Everybody knows that.

The Protect Life Act is both unnecessary and clearly politically motivated. Republicans are resorting to their old bag of tricks and pulling the abortion card in order to distract from their clear lack of leadership. In April they rammed through H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, instead of focusing on efforts to pass a clean continuing resolution that would prevent a government shutdown.

As the deadline approaches for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in Congress to approve a deficit reduction plan in excess of $1.5 trillion, Republicans have deemed it necessary to rehash the health care reform debate and roll back women's rights.

And I want to clear up one thing. You keep saying ``ObamaCare.'' I've said repeatedly that there are those of us, and I am among them, that advocated for health care, including a public option and universal health care long before we even knew Barack Obama's name. So perhaps it should be called ``Hastings-ObamaCare.''

This time, however, they take it to a new harmful extreme. The Protect Life Act is not about the regulation of Federal funds with regard to abortion services. The Hyde amendment already does that. This act is about restricting access to care and intimidating women and their families in the use of their own money.

Since 1976, the Hyde amendment has prohibited the use of taxpayer money for funding abortions, unless the abortion is performed in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother. The Affordable Care Act is no exception.

Regardless of the facts, however, House Republicans continue their assault on a woman's right to choose. Contrary to popular belief, the Protect Life Act is not the Stupak-Pitts amendment of the 2009-2010 health care reform debate. It goes far beyond Stupak-Pitts to impose unprecedented limitations on abortion coverage and restricts access to abortion services for all women.

The Protect Life Act would have an adverse effect on women's access to reproductive services, especially for low-income minority women who are very likely to be underinsured or uninsured and use partial subsidies to purchase insurance.

It not only ends abortion coverage for women in the exchange who use their own private funds to pay for their insurance, but also essentially shuts down the private insurance market for abortion coverage. This act imposes crippling administrative burdens on insurance companies that choose to cover abortion care and bans abortion coverage from all multi-State plans, interfering with private insurance companies' decisions about what benefits to offer.

Simply put, the Protect Life Act is a misnomer. It poses a direct threat to the health and lives of women by restricting access to termination services, including factually accurate information such as the availability and coverage of abortion care by insurance plans. Even more troubling is the fact that this act creates an exception to the obligation of hospitals to comply with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires appropriate treatment and referral for emergency patients. If enacted, hospitals could refuse to provide abortion services to pregnant women whose lives are in critical danger. This is beyond irresponsible. It is, indeed, reprehensible.

Finally, the Protect Life Act vastly broadens already expansive federal conscience laws without regard for patient protection or anti-discrimination protection for providers of abortion services. It safeguards from federal preemption State conscience laws beyond abortion, which could allow providers to drop their coverage of other reproductive health services like contraception and possibly even reproductive care such as mental health services and HIV counseling.

All I hear from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially those within segments of their party, is that they want the government to butt out. Why, then, are we considering legislation on the House floor that effectively overturns the privacy rights enumerated by the United States Supreme Court as well as increases burdensome government regulations on insurance companies? Congress should not be making personal health care decisions for women, and Congressmen really shouldn't be even involved in making personal health care decisions for women. That should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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