Political Animal


October 13, 2011 10:40 AM The poorly-named ‘Protect Life Act’

By Steve Benen

House Republicans aren’t at all interested in working on jobs bills. They do, however, have plenty of time for anti-abortion legislation that has no chance of becoming law.

…Republicans can’t let social conservatives feel overlooked by the focus on the tea party’s spending concerns — so they’re about to make sure those critical GOP voters know that they haven’t forgotten about their campaign pledge to block federal funding of abortions.

The House is set to vote Thursday on the Protect Life Act, legislation that would ban women from using the health reform law’s tax subsidies to purchase health plans that cover abortions.

This is, of course, part of a larger pattern reflecting GOP priorities in this Congress. Voters who backed Republicans in 2010, hoping to see a focus on economic growth, may not have realized they were actually voting for a renewed culture war.

Just on the issue of reproductive rights, today’s vote on the Protect Life Act comes in the midst of the Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood and the odious “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” And that’s just in Washington — restrictions pushed by the GOP at the state level are even more daunting.

As for the specific bill that’s likely to reach the House floor today, let’s first note some context. Under existing law, American hospitals have to treat everyone — or at a minimum, stabilize them — regardless of their ability to pay. If the facility can’t provide treatment, it must transfer a patient to a hospital that can, and then that hospital is required to provide care.

The sponsors of the Protect Life Act have a question few ever ask: what happens when a patient requires an emergency abortion to save her life? Proponents want to empower hospitals to simply let the woman die.

The bill … is an amendment to the 2010 health care reform law that would modify the way Obamacare deals with abortion coverage…. [C]ritics say a new section of the bill inserted into the language just this week would go far beyond Stupak, allowing hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives. […]

[Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-Pa.)] bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing in terminating pregnancies wouldn’t have to — nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.

The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts’ bill say.

Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood executive vice president for policy, advocacy and communications, said yesterday that “any politician who votes for this bill is literally putting politics before women’s health.”

It’s expected to pass the House anyway — thank again, midterm voters — but will probably never even see the light of day in the Senate. Just in case, however, the White House issued a statement of administration policy yesterday afternoon, letting Congress know President Obama would definitely veto this bill, if it were to reach his desk.

Maybe some enterprising campaign reporters can ask the Republican presidential candidates whether they’d sign this bill in 2013 — and whether they think this is the best use of Congress’ time right now.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • DAY on October 13, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Dear Concerned Citizen:

    Democrats want to rape your daughter and abort the results.
    Send money- QUICK!


  • K in VA on October 13, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Just wondering: Republicans are against taxes and all that, but how many in the House would vote "Aye" if somebody proposed a bill to tax gay Americans?

  • SYSPROG on October 13, 2011 10:53 AM:

    This makes me so MAD and so sick...It's time for the 'politicians' to get their nose outta my crotch!!! Not only do they want women to DIE (channeling my inner Grayson) but they want to FORCE us to have kids. The next thing they are doing is trying to ban BIRTH CONTROL. FU you sanctimonious peckerheads.

  • c u n d gulag on October 13, 2011 10:56 AM:

    I suggest we rename this bill the, "Honey, the Doctor at this Hospital Says You're a Fucking Goner Act."

    I also have an amendment. Anyone who makes more than $100,000 and can afford to send someone to receive an abortion overseas, and is found to have done so, should receive the death penalty.*

    *Note: This is snark - I am against the death penalty in all cases.

  • walt on October 13, 2011 11:03 AM:

    In Phoenix last year, a Catholic hospital performed an emergency abortion to save a mother's life and the administrator, a nun, was excommunicated by the bishop. The hospital was then stripped of its right to call itself Catholic.

    We sometimes think there are limits to even the most abject cruelty that the hard right dishes out. There aren't. Fetuses are virtually the only protected class of Americans (besides millionaires, of course). Accordingly, no American outside the womb has a right to health care, not even the most vulnerable. Once born, the baby can be left to die in need of medical care if their parents don't have insurance. This is what right wingers believe.

    These people are insane with an ideology that even on its own terms makes no sense. Except that their thuggishness has become a political end zone demonstration.

  • Grumpy on October 13, 2011 11:05 AM:

    "...ban women from using the health reform law’s tax subsidies to purchase health plans that cover abortions."

    Just to be clear, this isn't federal funding for abortion; it's a tax break. It's not even a tax break for abortion; the insurance purchased with the subsidy may never cover an abortion or any reproductive procedure. But if the insurance company includes abortion coverage....

    Are anti-abortion taxpayers really so outraged by the thought that some of their money (which, in the case of a tax break, isn't theirs) might somehow end up in the same cash drawer as money that pays for an abortion?

  • martin on October 13, 2011 11:11 AM:

    Fetuses are virtually the only protected class of Americans (besides millionaires, of course).

    But you can rest assured that fetuses of millionaires can be aborted on demand.

  • Schtick on October 13, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Someone should ask the tealiban "How many jobs is this going to create?" on every piece of legislation that they put forth. And don't let them avoid the answer. Follow up with how many jobs is this going eliminate.
    I'm sick and tired of these people calling themselves "Pro-Life" when they are nothing but anti-abortion. These same people are pro-death penalty and cheer (or not speaking out against the cheering) when someone that doesn't have insurance is going to die.
    And remember, all this shit being promoted by the family values party while they are porking their secretary, their campaign aide, or chasing little boys down the halls of Congress.

    crapcha....as Gencern....of course

  • berttheclock on October 13, 2011 11:31 AM:

    Joe Pitts is a member of "The Family" and heads the Value Action Team in the House, which co-ordinates with the religious right. His religious listing is Evangelical Christian. He, probably, believes he is in a B-52 co-ordinating dropping bombs on Planned Parenthood. He served in such over 'Nam.

  • paul on October 13, 2011 11:32 AM:

    As the spouse of someone who would quite possibly have been dead under this law had we stopped into the wrong emergency room, I find the title particularly annoying.

    Although they're partly about moralistic showboating, this and other "conscience clause" laws are also about federal giveaways to sleazy hospitals. You can make a lot more money if you don't have to provide adequate care to patients who don't have the resources to go elsewhere.

  • SYSPROG on October 13, 2011 11:35 AM:

    How does this square with 'death panels' and 'not letting the government come between you and your doctor?'

  • mistamatic on October 13, 2011 11:57 AM:

    So in sentencing the mother to death, aren't they also KILLING THE BABY? I mean, isn't that what they think they're protecting, these retards? Just kill both of them...that will fix it.

    The day people wake up and stop voting for these assholes will be fabulous. I hope I live that long.

  • Judith Martinez on October 13, 2011 12:19 PM:

    NOW let's talk about .....the alleged #Death Panels#. Anyone besides me see any similarities here ?

  • Bartender on October 13, 2011 12:32 PM:

    How ironic. For such a radicalized group of far-right conservatives to favor "..to simply let the woman die.", this is certainly bordering on their very psychotic paranoia over Sharia law that they fear is creaping into our judicial system.

  • Gretchen on October 13, 2011 1:30 PM:

    MIstamatic - they don't believe anybody will really die if they don't get an abortion, and no amount of evidence convinces them. They think the mother and the doctor are just exagerating, and both will be just fine if the abortion can be stopped. See the Tim Tebow story for an example of this nonsense.