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On the question of legal abortion, Americans remain strongly pro-choice. However, the two chambers of Congress are sharply divided on the issue, with only 173 fully pro-choice House members out of 435, and 42 of 100 senators. Addressing a rally of anti-choice protesters shortly after the 113th Congress was gaveled into session, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that making "abortion a relic of the past" was one of his "most fundamental goals this year," and threatened to move a legislative agenda that targets the right to choose. Carrying out his pledge in 2013, anti-choice lawmakers attacked reproductive rights on the following fronts:
- Birth-Control Refusal Law: Anti-choice members of Congress continued their forceful opposition to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive-coverage policy. Two anti-choice measures received floor votes: the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) to the FY'14 budget resolution that would have allowed a nationwide refusal on the provision of any women's health service for virtually any reason; and the House passed an amendment to the continuing resolution offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would have allowed any employer, health-plan sponsor, insurance plan, or individual to refuse to cover any women's preventive-health service required under the health-reform law for virtually any reason for a one-year period. The House measure was a blatant attempt to inflame sensitive budget negotiations underway; it passed on a near-party line vote, and helped to precipitate the 16-day federal government shutdown.
- Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act: For the past 16 years, anti-choice lawmakers have tried to pass legislation that would harshly restrict young women's access to abortion services. In its current form, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) would make it a federal crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a minor across state lines for abortion services. It also would impose an impossibly complex patchwork of parental-involvement laws on women and doctors across the country. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered a non-binding, sense-of-the-Senate provision to the FY'14 budget resolution resolving that CIANA should be enacted. Thankfully, the amendment was defeated.
- 20-Week Abortion Ban: House anti-choice lawmakers again attacked women's access to abortion care with the misleadingly named Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and then, in a stunning move, expanded the bill's reach beyond the District of Columbia to apply nationwide. Sponsored by anti-choice Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill imposes an outright ban on abortion care after 20 weeks. (Notably, even a bill this extreme was opposed by some anti-choice members, reportedly on the grounds that adding limited exceptions for rape and incest rendered the legislation insufficiently punitive.) The legislation passed the House, and anti-choice Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced similar bills in the Senate.
- International Family Planning: Anti-choice Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) offered an amendment to the FY'14 budget resolution that effectively would have defunded the United Nations family-planning program (UNFPA). The UNFPA program provides crucial funding for family-planning services, as well as other essential health care, for some of the poorest women in the world. The amendment was rejected.
- Anti-Choice Resolution to Exploit Pennsylvania Tragedy: On multiple occasions, anti-choice Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) offered a resolution exploiting the tragic circumstances that led to the trial of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia physician with a long history of running an unsafe and illegal abortion operation. The Lee resolution implied that abortion care is dangerous and abortion providers are unscrupulous—a leap that is patently false. Pro-choice Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and allies blocked the resolution, offering an alternative that called on the Senate to address "all incidents of abusive, unsanitary, or illegal health care practices," rather than unfairly single out and punish providers of comprehensive reproductive-health care.
NARAL Pro-Choice America's 2013 Congressional Record on Choice documents the key House and Senate votes taken during the first session of the 113th Congress.