The poorly-named ‘Protect Life Act’

House Republicans aren’t at all interested in working on jobs bills. They do, however, have plenty of time for anti-abortion legislation that has no chance of becoming law.

…Republicans can’t let social conservatives feel overlooked by the focus on the tea party’s spending concerns — so they’re about to make sure those critical GOP voters know that they haven’t forgotten about their campaign pledge to block federal funding of abortions.

The House is set to vote Thursday on the Protect Life Act, legislation that would ban women from using the health reform law’s tax subsidies to purchase health plans that cover abortions.

This is, of course, part of a larger pattern reflecting GOP priorities in this Congress. Voters who backed Republicans in 2010, hoping to see a focus on economic growth, may not have realized they were actually voting for a renewed culture war.

Just on the issue of reproductive rights, today’s vote on the Protect Life Act comes in the midst of the Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood and the odious “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” And that’s just in Washington — restrictions pushed by the GOP at the state level are even more daunting.

As for the specific bill that’s likely to reach the House floor today, let’s first note some context. Under existing law, American hospitals have to treat everyone — or at a minimum, stabilize them — regardless of their ability to pay. If the facility can’t provide treatment, it must transfer a patient to a hospital that can, and then that hospital is required to provide care.

The sponsors of the Protect Life Act have a question few ever ask: what happens when a patient requires an emergency abortion to save her life? Proponents want to empower hospitals to simply let the woman die.

The bill … is an amendment to the 2010 health care reform law that would modify the way Obamacare deals with abortion coverage…. [C]ritics say a new section of the bill inserted into the language just this week would go far beyond Stupak, allowing hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives. […]

[Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-Pa.)] bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing in terminating pregnancies wouldn’t have to — nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.

The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts’ bill say.

Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood executive vice president for policy, advocacy and communications, said yesterday that “any politician who votes for this bill is literally putting politics before women’s health.”

It’s expected to pass the House anyway — thank again, midterm voters — but will probably never even see the light of day in the Senate. Just in case, however, the White House issued a statement of administration policy yesterday afternoon, letting Congress know President Obama would definitely veto this bill, if it were to reach his desk.

Maybe some enterprising campaign reporters can ask the Republican presidential candidates whether they’d sign this bill in 2013 — and whether they think this is the best use of Congress’ time right now.