WASHINGTON -- A bill that would block the Bush administration from prohibiting abortion counseling at federally funded family planning clinics was passed by the House yesterday after a debate dominated by free speech concerns.
Technically, the abortion counseling issue was but a small clause in a $204 billion money bill for the government's health, welfare, and education programs that passed 353-74.
After the anti-abortion side backed down from a floor fight, there was no separate vote on the counseling issue.
The outcome made it clear that the May Supreme Court decision upholding the president's right to ban abortion counseling -- Rust vs. Sullivan -- has transformed the abortion debate. A free speech question of whether the government can set limits on a doctor's discussion with a patient is now part of the issue.