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Anti-abortion language included in GOP healthcare bill despite worry about Senate rules

062217 Leonard Abortion Healthcare Bill pic
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced the release of the Republicans' healthcare bill on Capitol Hill. (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

Anti-abortion provisions have been included in a Republican healthcare bill even though senators have suggested they may not meet the upper chamber's rules on what can be in the bill.

Like the House-passed bill, the American Health Care Act, the discussion draft of the Senate healthcare bill creates a new set of tax credits for people to purchase insurance that included Hyde Amendment language, a spending rider that prohibits federal funding from going towards most abortions. It also cuts off federal family planning funds for birth control, STD testing and cancer screenings from going to organizations that also provide abortions, a provision that would result in federal funding being cut off from organizations like Planned Parenthood.

The Senate is passing the bill through reconciliation, which carries a number of restrictions, including that provisions must be primarily budgetary in nature. The Senate parliamentarian is tasked with advising the Senate on whether any part of the bill meets the reconciliation rules, and reportedly has advised against some of the language.

The anti-abortion provisions are important to social conservatives, who say that Obamacare includes weaker anti-abortion language that is not satisfactory.

But by including these provisions, Senate leaders risk losing the support of centrists. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have said that they will not support legislation that would cut off federal funding from Planned Parenthood. To pass the bill through reconciliation, Republicans the Senate can lose no more than two votes, assuming a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Planned Parenthood released a statement opposing the bill because of the language.

"If this bill passes the Senate, the consequences are dire: It would ‘defund' Planned Parenthood; gut maternity coverage; strip millions of their health insurance; force new moms back to work shortly after giving birth; and reduce access to contraception," Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's president, said in a statement. "In short, this bill makes it harder to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy, and harder to raise a family."