House Financial Services Appropriations Bill contains new prolife riders, amendments expected

Washington DC—The House of Representatives today entered the second day of debate over the Financial Services Appropriations spending measure. Congressional leaders and President Trump may agree on a temporary spending measure that would extend federal funding and ignore much of what ends up in the spending measure. Even so, the House Appropriations bill serves as a strong pro-life starting point for negotiations with the House and Senate.

This House appropriations bill carries a significant amount of excellent prolife language. In addition to continuing longstanding riders like the Hyde, which prohibits Federal Medicaid dollars for paying for elective abortion, there are several new pro-life policies that would change current law if enacted.

There is a provision based on the Conscience Protection Act. The Conscience Protection Act would prohibit any level of government from mandating that health care providers participate in abortion. It would protect doctors, nurses, hospitals, and health plans (and employers who purchase the plans). Most importantly, the language empowers those who are affected by abortion mandates to file private lawsuits in federal courts – without the need for intervention by the pro-abortion activists who draw paychecks at the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Another provision would prevent funding for fetal tissue research from induced abortion. An additional provision would nullify DC’s dangerous and recently enacted assisted suicide law.

There are expected to be dozens of amendments, with two of pro-life interest. As reported by the Appropriations Committee, the bill includes language to make null and void the so-called “budget autonomy” law enacted by local officials of the District of Columbia. National Right to Life sent a letter to the House urging them to vote against the Norton Amendment which would delete this crucial provision from the bill. The Norton amendment would mean continuing to allow District officials to hijack over $8 billion annually in funds that the Constitution and the Home Rule Act place under congressional authority, opening the door to use of these funds to pay for elective abortions or other illicit purposes.

The other amendment relates to the so-called “Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act” (RHNDA), a local law enacted by the District Council in 2014.

The RHNDA prohibits employers within the District from engaging in “discrimination” on the basis of “decisions” reached by employees, or potential employees, regarding “reproductive health” matters. It is not disputed that abortion is among the matters encompassed by the term “reproductive health” as used in the new law. The scope of the RHNDA is very broad, covering any “decisions” that are “related to the use . . . of a particular . . . medical service . . .” [emphasis added]

National Right to Life advocates for recognition that each unborn child is a member of the human family, and that each abortion stops a beating heart and ends the life of a developing human being. That viewpoint is shared by many women who once believed otherwise and submitted to abortions, and by many men who once believed otherwise and were complicit in abortion; such persons number among the most committed activists within our organization and other pro-life organizations. Yet it would be intolerable for an advocacy organization such as ours to be required to hire, or prohibited from firing, a person who makes a “decision” to engage in advocacy or any other activity that is directly antithetical to our core mission to lawfully advocate for the civil rights of the unborn.

We are urging the House to vote in favor of the Palmer Amendment to curb implementation of the “Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act.”

While we can expect that many of these prolife provisions will not become law, the bill serves as a strong prolife starting point.