The House refused Friday to fund abortions for poor women who are raped or the victims of incest, imperiling a $140 billion health appropriations bill.
By a 216-166 vote, the House rejected the more generous coverage for federally funded abortions in the Senate bill, insisting pregnancies should only be terminated when the mother's life is in jeopardy.Major differences between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill had been resolved in a conference committee but the panel could not reach agreement on the abortion language and asked the members to decide the issue. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote on the more restrictive language in the House measure, but the appropriations provision could be left in limbo if the Senate rejects it.
Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., made an emotional appeal to fellow members to adopt the Senate version of the bill, reminding lawmakers of the lasting trauma caused by rape and incest.
"Picture your daughter. Picture you own wife. Picture the terror. Picture the pain," she said. "Are you going to ask her day after day to relive that experience? Are you going to make that decision for her?
"Can every man in the House of Representatives take upon themselves at this moment the right and responsibility to make this kind of decision for every poor women and child?"
But Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the leading House opponent of abortion, stressed the need for compassion for the fetus, saying: "Rape isn't over when it's finished, but neither is abortion. Abortion is terminal. Nobody has the right to kill another innocent life."
President Reagan has said he would veto the appropriations bill if it contained the Senate language on abortion.