The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass a bill that would allow U.S. tax dollars to pay for abortions worldwide.
Part of this appropriations bill repeals what's known as the Helms Amendment. That measure ensured that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions internationally.
The measure passed 217 to 212. Only three Democrats voting against it.
"It's been almost 50 years, and this is the first vote on Helms repeal ever, since it began in 1973. To say that we are excited is an understatement. It really is history being made," said Bethany Van Kampen, senior policy adviser with the international pro-choice group Ipas, according to The Hill.
A Marist poll from January shows an overwhelming majority – 77 percent of Americans – oppose federal funding of international abortion. The poll found opposition to using taxpayer funds to pay for abortion in other countries across all parties, including 55% of Democrats, 85% of Independents and 95% of Republicans.
"The underlying pro-abortion language in this bill is far outside the mainstream of American values," Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) told fellow lawmakers this week.
The pro-life lawmaker went on to issue a harsh rebuke of the measure, expressing his support for the unborn and his fierce opposition to using U.S. money to pay for abortions abroad.
"Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for child dismemberment— including severing arms and legs and decapitation with sharp knives—or deadly poisons or drugs like RU–486 which starves the baby to death," he said. "Children alive but not yet born who are killed by abortion at 20 weeks or later experience excruciating suffering and physical pain."
Smith said U.S. funding should be used instead to help mothers and provide better medical care.
"Rather than funding the death of a baby, I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition. We must also expand essential obstetrical services, including skilled birth attendants, while improving transportation to emergency care facilities to significantly reduce maternal mortality and morbidity," he said.
Meanwhile, 288 Republicans in the House and Senate are asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade - the 1973 decision that invented abortion rights in the U.S.
The signers of the amicus brief included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other members of the GOP leadership.
The high court will hear a case next term on Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.
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