All three Utah members of the House continue to say they oppose abortion, but they split Wednesday on whether to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would have expanded the federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.
The override failed on a 231-191 vote, 51 short of the two-thirds majority needed.Democrat Wayne Owens voted with the unsuccessful plurality to override the veto, and Republicans Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson voted to sustain it.
The D.C. appropriations bill sought to expand abortion funding by allowing it in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life was threatened. Previously, Congress had allowed it only when the mother's life was endangered.
Owens explained his vote saying, "I have always opposed abortion, except in the case of rape or incest or when the health of the mother is threatened. The only consistent vote with that is to override the president's veto."
He added, "Pregnancies in those circumstances should be terminable. The poor who are unable to pay for the abortions should have the same opportunities as those who can pay."
Nielson said he voted to sustain the veto "because I am concerned with the life of the innocent unborn child and I am firmly against using federal funds for abortions except in the case when the mother's life is in danger."
He added, "Verification is difficult when claims of rape and incest are raised, especially if any delays are involved before the claim is made."
Hansen complained that the bill's language about funding abortions in the case of rape might even allow it in the case of "statutory rape," where the mother is underage but no force was involved.
"This essentially allows for abortion on demand by our youth, giving them a federally funded form of birth control," he said.
Hansen added, "I firmly believe that there are cases where abortion is necessary, especially when the mother's life is in danger. Even in cases of rape and incest, I feel there should be consideration given. But this bill as it is written is far too vague and opens the door for virtually limitless taxpayer-paid abortions."
Meanwhile, an Associated Press survey showed that if the vote had been left only to its women members, the House would have had the two-thirds majority to override President Bush's veto of expanded Medicaid abortion coverage to cases of rape and incest.
Eighteen of the 27 women members voted to override, eight voted to sustain and one didn't vote.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., a pro-choice advocate, said she thinks women better understand the problem.
"This is a crime that only impacts on women," she said after the 231-191 vote that failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.