[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill [text] on Thursday that would ban abortions supported by federal funding. The bill explicitly denies any health plans or facilities that are federally funded from expending tax-payer funds from being used for abortion services. Voting on the bill was timed to coincide with the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade [opinion], and with a pro-life march in front of the Capitol that happened concurrently with the vote. The current Republican majority had hoped to use the occasion to vote on a bill that would restrict all abortions after 20 weeks gestation, but opposition from female members of the GOP surrounding the inclusion of rape victims under the restrictions of bill caused the party to reconsider and present the funding measure instead. These two bills seem to indicate that the Republican-led Congress will be striving to move legislation more firmly into the pro-life [Washington Times report] realm, but they will face resistance from the executive branch, as President Obama has already vowed to veto the bill should it reach his desk.
The issue of reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] and the legality of abortions has been contested for over four decades, following the decision of Roe v. Wade. In recent years many states have passed restrictive abortion laws and have found them overturned by different levels of the judiciary. In April a federal appeals court both granted and extended [JURIST reports] an injunction on an Arizona statute that would deny women the opportunity to receive a medical abortion after seven weeks of pregnancy [JURIST reports]. In December a district court declared [JURIST report] unconstitutional an Indiana law that required all abortion centers, even those that performed exclusively drug-related abortions, be prepared to treat unexpected complications surgically. That same law was granted a permanent injunction [JURIST report] early this month for its violation of the 14th amendment. In late December, a court of appeals deemed unconstitutional [JURIST report] a North Carolina law that required health care providers to perform a sonogram before an abortion could take place. While many state abortion restrictions have been overturned, it is unclear how the courts will react to the current federal bill.