WASHINGTON (June 16, 2011)—The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved two important pro-life measures, strongly backed by the National Right to Life Committee, during May.
Both measures face uphill fights in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats currently control by a 53-47 majority. On the most recent abortion-related vote in the Senate, an April 14 roll call on a bill to cut off federal funds for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the pro-life side lost 42-58 (see April/May NRL News, page 21).
No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
On May 4, the House approved a major NRLC priority, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), by a vote of 251 to 175.
Every Republican House member who was present—235 lawmakers—voted in favor of the bill, joined by 16 Democrats. Every one of the 175 negative votes was cast by a Democrat.
(The House roll call on H.R. 3 appears on pages 24-26 of this edition, in vote column no. 1.)
Two days before the House took up the bill, the White House issued a statement attacking the bill, threatening a veto if the bill reaches President Obama’s desk.
“If the President is presented with H.R. 3, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” said the White House statement.
“There are over one million Americans who are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment policy—but President Obama, although he claims to seek abortion reduction, continues to work against that policy,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “The White House veto threat demonstrates yet again that President Obama is determined to expand federal subsidies for abortion on demand—despite his verbal smokescreens. The 175 House Democrats who voted against the bill will be firmly marked as supporters of federal subsidies for elective abortion.”
For many years, federal funding of abortion has been limited by a patchwork of laws—many of which expire annually, because they are incorporated into annual appropriations bills. The best known is the Hyde Amendment, but this law applies only to funds that flow through the annual Health and Human Services appropriations bill, and it expires annually. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (“ObamaCare”), enacted in 2010, opened new pipelines for federal funding of abortion, which are not governed by the Hyde Amendment or any other statutory restriction.
H.R. 3 would codify the principles of the Hyde Amendment on a permanent, government-wide basis, applicable to both longstanding federal health programs and to the new programs created by the PPACA.
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), who are also co-chairmen of the House Pro-Life Caucus.
“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the American people and ought to be the law of the land,” said pro-life House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) during the House debate. “But the law, particularly as it is currently enforced, does not reflect the will of the people. … Enacting this legislation would provide the American people with the assurance that their hard-earned tax dollars will not be used to fund abortions.”
In a press release issued after the House vote, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, “Thankfully, the administration has made clear this extreme proposal is unacceptable. In addition, we are confident that the Senate will stand firm in its commitment to American women and reject this extreme proposal.”
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Ms.) has introduced identical legislation as S. 906. As of June 15, the bill had 35 Senate cosponsors, all Republicans. (To see an always-current list of cosponsors, go to http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/issues/)
“We will fight in the Senate to stop this ideological attack on millions of American women,” said pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.).
Regarding the prospects for No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act being enacted into law, Congressman Smith said, “It may happen this year, it may happen next year, or the following year, but we will not stop. This is far too important.”
Pro-life “conscience” protection okayed
In another significant pro-life victory, the House on May 25 adopted an NRLC-backed amendment to prohibit discrimination against pro-life health care providers by “teaching health centers” that receive certain federal funds for graduate medical education.
The amendment, offered by pro-life Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), was adopted on a vote of 234-182, over the strong objections of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).
The amendment pertains to one of the many new programs created by the sweeping health care restructuring law enacted in 2010—the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA), often referred to as “ObamaCare.”
The program provided guaranteed funding—$230 million over the first five years—for grants to “teaching health centers” (THCs) for graduate-level training in certain “primary care” fields of medicine, including obstetrics and gynecology. The new program was targeted to “community-based” health centers, including federally funded community health centers and family planning clinics.
The bill brought to the House floor by the House Republican leadership, H.R. 1216, would not abolish the new medical education program, but it would remove it from the realm of “mandatory” funding, meaning that funding levels would be set during the regular annual appropriations process. To this bill, Rep. Foxx offered an amendment to prohibit any medical center that receives funds from the program from discriminating against any doctor, nurse, or other health care provider—for example, a medical resident—on grounds that the provider refused to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
In addition, the Foxx Amendment prohibited the use of any federal funds in the program to provide abortions or training in abortion, with narrow exceptions.
NRLC took no position on the THC funding program itself or on the bill, but strongly endorsed the Foxx Amendment.
In advance of the House vote, PPFA strongly denounced the Foxx Amendment. In a memo circulated to House offices on May 24, PPFA Legislative Director Oliver Kim called the amendment “a clear attempt to undermine women’s ability to be served by physicians who are adequately trained to provide the full range of reproductive health services they may need,” and said that PPFA would include the House roll call in its congressional scorecard.
Following the vote, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the Foxx Amendment “would bar qualified teaching health centers from using federal funds for comprehensive medical training that includes instruction in the provision of abortion services,” which she characterized as “an unprecedented restriction on medical training” that “would limit drastically doctors’ ability to receive comprehensive and necessary instruction in reproductive-health care … .”
“The reaction of Planned Parenthood and NARAL to the Foxx Amendment makes it crystal clear that they want the federal taxpayer to fund training of the next generation of abortionists,” said NRLC’s Douglas Johnson. “In fact, pro-abortion activists are also trying to make it impossible to practice in some medical fields without participating in providing abortions. Stronger federal anti-discrimination laws are needed to counter these efforts, especially since the Obama Administration has severely weakened enforcement of the existing protective laws.”
The Foxx Amendment, in winning adoption 234-182, was supported by 221 Republicans and 13 Democrats. It was opposed by 10 Republicans and 172 Democrats.
(The roll call on the Foxx Amendment appears on pages 24-26 of this issue, in vote column no. 2.)
H.R. 1216, as amended, passed the House 234-185.
In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its first 11 grants under the new THC program. One of the recipients, the Institute for Family Health, operates a variety of health centers and programs in New York, some of which have been identified as performing abortions, including the Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Practice in New York City, which trains residents to perform chemically induced abortions. A faculty member with the Beth Israel program, Dr. Linda Prine, is also on the staff of the Reproductive Health Access Project, an organization that is engaged in a national campaign to persuade federally funded community health centers to become abortion providers.
In a February press release, the Institute said that the new federal grant would be used by the Mid-Hudson Family Medicine Residency Program, which is based in Kingston, New York. The Institute did not mention whether the Mid-Hudson program includes abortion.
Further details on specific components of H.R. 3, including conscience protections for pro-life health care providers and a provision applying to the District of Columbia, are found in NRLC’s May 3 letter to the House of Representatives (http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCLetterToHouseOnHR3.pdf), and in a Q&A factsheet issued by the office of Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), the prime sponsor of H.R. 3 (http://chrissmith.house.gov/UploadedFiles/2011_Q_and_A.pdf).
For additional documentation on the abortion-expanding components of the ObamaCare law, see http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/ProtectLifeActDouglas JohnsonTestimony.pdf
To view complete NRLC congressional scorecards, and to check the current status of pro-life legislation, visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/