WASHINGTON (BP)--The U.S. House of Representatives passed a government-wide ban on abortion funding in a 251-175 vote May 4.

The bill -- the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 3 -- would institute a permanent prohibition on federal funds and subsidies for abortion. It would serve to standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many of which have to be approved each year, and make certain the prohibition extends to all agencies. The ban would apply to last year's health-care reform law, which authorizes federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion. In addition, it also would establish conscience clause protections for pro-life, health-care providers.

The legislation, however, seems destined to fail in this congressional session. It faces likely defeat in the Senate. Even if it were to survive the Senate, President Obama seems certain to veto it. The White House released a statement May 2 saying it opposes the bill and the president would be advised to use his veto power to thwart it.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land urged selected House members to vote for the bill in a May 3 letter.

"We find it unconscionable that a single taxpayer dollar be funneled to abortion," the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said. The legislation's passage would mean "concerns on abortion funding would be significantly abated," Land said.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act seeks to address a problem in the effort to prevent federal money from underwriting abortion -- the need to reauthorize yearly many bans in a variety of government programs. It would bring together in one permanent law such pro-life riders as the Hyde Amendment, which bans Health and Human Services funds from paying for abortion; and the Smith Amendment, which applies a similar prohibition to federal employees.

The House-passed legislation includes exceptions for abortions in cases of a danger to the mother's life and pregnancy by rape or incest.

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., is the chief sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois is the lead Democratic cosponsor.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. See how your representative voted at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll292.xml

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