Americans' #1 Priority: Abortion?

Question: What do job creation, the federal budget deficit, the war in Afghanistan, health care, and energy have in common?

Answer: Each of these important issues facing the federal government consistently ranks as a higher priority among voters than abortion, contraception, or any other hot-button social issue.

In polls -- and, more importantly, in elections -- Americans have repeatedly made clear that when the campaigning is done and the votes are counted, they expect their elected representatives to focus on kitchen-table issues. Now more than ever, families are focused on meeting the monthly mortgage payment, sending their children to college, and retiring with dignity and financial security.

The proper role for government at a time of unemployment, underemployment, and financial insecurity is to boost demand, incentivize economic activity, and help hard-working families and the most vulnerable.

That is why the culture war and attack on women's health the House Republican majority have pursued in the 112th Congress are so insulting and tone deaf.

Having failed -- so far -- to outlaw abortion through the courts, the House Republican majority's first priority upon assuming the majority was to take their argument to the tax code.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), would impose tax penalties on Americans who purchase private insurance plans that offer abortion coverage. Despite the fact that established law prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion, the legislation would prohibit women in the military and other female federal employees from making their own legal health choice even if they pay for the care or coverage with their own money.

Just recently, the Republican majority rehashed its attack on women's health with the Protect Life Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). Again, this legislation would prevent women from using their own money to purchase insurance that offers a full range of health benefits. Even worse, it would allow hospitals to arbitrarily deny women legal, life-saving care.

Currently, hospitals that receive federal funding must provide emergency medical care, including abortion if necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Should this legislation become law, hospitals would be permitted to allow a woman to die in the emergency room if her health care provider had a moral or religious objection to performing an abortion.

During a debate on the House floor, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) courageously put a face on this medieval policy, recounting how an emergency abortion saved her life. "I was pregnant, I was miscarrying and I was bleeding," she said. "If I had to go from one hospital to the next trying to find one emergency room that would take me in, who knows if I would even be here today?"

It is an understatement to say the House Republican majority's agenda misses the moment. At a time when the federal government should be focused like a laser beam on job-creating investments and targeted tax relief, the majority takes a pass. They choose instead to rehash standard attacks on women's health, paired with new efforts to impose conservative social beliefs through the tax code and doctor-patient relationship.

If only they would apply the same creativity and innovation to creating jobs and getting our economy back on track.

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