By Evan McMorris-Santoro
Pro-choice activists and politicians may have scored a victory with the news that the House abortion bill won't contain a redefinition of rape, but that hasn't made several prominent House Democrats any happier about the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.
"Look, my reaction is this is not really changing things that much," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) told TPM in an interview today. "This exposed them for what their true intentions are. Now that they're exposed they're trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and it's not going to work."
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wasn't interested in giving the sponsors of H.R.3 much credit for altering their bill under pressure from pro-choice groups.
"It's still a totally flawed bill," Maloney told TPM. "I would call it the deepest attack on a woman's right to choose in my lifetime."
Democrats have already attempted to leverage the bad press about the bill. This week, the DCCC launched a web campaign targeting Republicans over the bill's original language allowing for federal abortion coverage only in the case of "forcible rape" or incest when the victim was a minor. It seems clear that the Democrats will not let up the pressure now that those provisions have changed.
"It's unusual that a new Republican majority who says their probity is jobs and job creation would say that their first major action and their first major bill would take action to take women down and take women back," Maloney said. "This is an anti-woman bill, an anti-choice bill and an anti-respect [for women's ability to make medical decisions] bill."
Proponents of the bill have said the intent is to make current federal prohibitions on abortion funding like the Hyde Amendment, which has to be renewed every year, a permanent fixture in the law. Representatives for Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the lead sponsor of the bill and a chair of the House Pro-Life caucus, said that the changes to the wording announced this morning are designed to bring H.R. 3 in line with the prohibitions on the books.
Maloney would have none of it. She pointed to the provisions making it tougher for women to seek abortion coverage from private insurers found in the law and dismissed the idea that the bill is simply Hyde set in legal stone.
"Make sure you get this down," she told me. "It goes far, far, far, far beyond current law."
Rep. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), a chair of the House Pro-Choice caucus, told the Ft. Collins Coloradoan that her members were not appeased by the bill's changes.
"This would be the biggest intrusion on a woman's right to choose in our lifetime," she said. "This is not the will of the American people."
Wasserman Schultz, a member of House Democratic leadership, said pro-choice members will continue to fight the bill when the House reconvenes next week.
"I would expect that we are going to continue to aggressively expose and oppose this," she told me. She said the continued push for the bill even after it was "exposed" shows the the Republicans will not be giving up on trying to end abortion entirely. She said that could hurt their appeal with voters down the road.
"Now that they've shown women what they truly feel I think it will affect them at the ballot box," she said.
Maloney said the bill really has no chance of making into law no matter what the House does to it.
"Fortunately we have pro-choice a president with a lot of ink in his veto pen," she said.
We've actually talked a bit about this bill before here. Even without the particularly restrictive rape provisions, it's pretty horrendous.
ETA: To clarify, I'm unsure about the incest provision and whether that's still been narrowed just to minors. There are conflicting reports out there. I'll probably post something once I find more info though.