By Susan T. Muskett, J.D., Senior Legislative Counsel
Today, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice received key testimony in support of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7), legislation introduced by Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.). H.R. 7 would permanently prohibit subsidies for abortion and health insurance coverage of abortion in federal programs – both within longstanding federal programs and within the health care law signed by President Obama in 2010.
In her testimony, Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University School of Law, asserted that it “serves the interests of American women for the federal government once and for all to remove itself from the business of abortion funding.” First, she explained that Americans in general, especially women, oppose government funding of abortion, and that abortion funding for the poor is favored more by the well-off than by the poor themselves (a reality she called a “particularly unpleasant fact”). Women don’t view abortion as a “public good” deserving of funding, according to Alvare. She then pointed to the federal government’s own statements and documents as evidence that abortion is not part of a genuine “women’s health” agenda.
Richard Doerflinger testified on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in favor of writing into permanent law “a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years” going back to the 1976 enactment of the Hyde Amendment. He submitted testimony that explained that abortion rates substantially increase when government funding is provided, citing a study by the Guttmacher Institute (the former research arm of Planned Parenthood) as evidence that “Medicaid-eligible women whose states provide Medicaid funding for abortion have more than twice the abortion rate of eligible women whose states do not provide such funding.”
Both Alvare and Doerflinger testified that the U.S. Supreme Court’s caselaw recognizes abortion as inherently different from other medical procedures, because as the Court put it, “no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential human life.” Doerflinger cited Supreme Court decisions, going back to 1977, that viewed the funding of abortion as separate and distinct from the constitutional “right” to abortion. “Even courts insisting on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion have said this alleged right ‘implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds,’” Doerflinger said.
Nevertheless, despite the longstanding support of the public, the Congress, and the courts, for restrictions on the use of government funds to support abortion, NARAL has issued an alert to its supporters in opposition to H.R. 7, asserting: “Our goal is to stop this bill from coming up for a vote – and we can do that if we show enough members of the House that this bill will have huge political ramifications. Tell your lawmaker that you demand the House not bring H.R. 7 up for a vote.”
H.R. 7 currently has 145 co-sponsors. To view an always-current list of co-sponsors of H.R. 7, click here. The Senate companion bill, introduced by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Ms.), is S. 946, which has 24 co-sponsors. To view an always-current list of co-sponsors of S. 946, click here.