WASHINGTON — A bipartisan House coalition voted Saturday to prohibit coverage of abortions in a new government-run health care plan that Democrats would establish to compete with private insurers.
The 240-194 vote on an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., was a blow to liberals, who would have allowed the Obama administration and its successors to decide whether abortions would be covered by the government plan. Sixty-four Democrats joined 176 Republicans in favor of the prohibition.
Stupak's measure also would bar anyone from getting federal subsidies to help cover their premiums for private insurance polices that would include abortion coverage.
"Let us stand together on principle — no public funding for abortions, no public funding for insurance policies that pay for abortions," Stupak urged fellow lawmakers before the vote.
The amendment would bar the new government insurance plan from covering abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman is in danger. The Democrats' original legislation would have allowed the government plan to cover abortions if the Health and Human Services secretary decided it should.
The amendment also would prohibit people who receive new federal health subsidies from buying insurance plans that include abortion coverage.
The Democrats' original bill would have allowed people getting federal subsidies to pay for abortion coverage with their own money. Abortion opponents dismissed that as an accounting gimmick.
Abortion rights advocates called the measure the biggest setback to women's reproductive rights in decades.
The National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied lawmakers in both parties on the abortion measure. The bishops said they would oppose the bill if it lacked a strict prohibition on any federal funding for abortions.
Stupak's language applies to policies sold in a federally regulated insurance exchange that would be set up in 2013.
Under the Stupak amendment, people who do not receive federal insurance subsidies could buy private insurance plans in the exchange that include abortion coverage. People who receive federal subsidies could buy separate policies covering only abortions if they use only their own money to do it.