Republicans start the new year with -- surprise! -- a bunch of new abortion restrictions

So much for that new strategy of not alienating young women voters

Published January 9, 2014 6:31PM (EST)

                                           (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It's 2014, so House Republicans are turning a new leaf and sticking to their strategy of attracting young single women voters by moderating their hard line on reproductive rights.

Oh, wait. Never mind. They are pushing more restrictions on women's access to abortion and contraception, just like they were last year (and the year before that, and the year before that, and the ...).

Members of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday held a hearing on a measure to deny tax subsidies to women and small businesses that purchase insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Targeting insurance coverage of abortion is a popular tactic among anti-choice politicians, with similar legislation to restrict insurance coverage for the procedure coming out of (and being broadly criticized in) Michigan.

More on the bill from Laura Bassett at the Huffington Post:

The bill the House is hearing on Thursday, called the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act, would severely limit women's ability to buy insurance plans that cover abortion in the Obamacare exchanges, even though the law already contains a provision separating public funds from the private premiums people would pay for abortion coverage. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said when he introduced the bill last May that the legislation is intended to make it more difficult for women to access abortion care.

"President Obama has said he wants abortion to be rare," Smith said. "To Mr. Obama I say, 'Here is a bill for you.'"

Before Obamacare went into effect, more than 80 percent of private insurance plans in the United States covered abortion as if it were any other medical procedure. But banning the insurance coverage of abortion has recently become popular among state legislatures as a way to prevent women for being able to pay for the procedure.

Eradicating affordable, legal and safe access to abortion care remains the objective for conservative lawmakers in 2014, but, as Bassett notes, the strategies may have shifted slightly. After years of pushing increasingly sweeping laws, lawmakers seem to be focusing their attention on subtler ways to deny women access to medical care, like insurance bans that make the procedure financially out of reach for many women.

While it's not surprising that Republicans are as focused as ever on controlling women's bodies, their preoccupation with abortion does seem a bit ... unhealthy, as Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the HuffPost.

"I'm not a psychologist, but we're dealing with behavior that, to me, appears obsessive," she said. "The jury is in from the rest of country as well -- they want Congress to legislate on issues that are priorities for all Americans. But Republicans don't hear it, because it's an obsessive-compulsive behavior, their focus on rolling back women's rights. They can't stop themselves."

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Abortion Care Abortion Rights Gop Insurance Obamacare Republicans Women's Health Women's Rights