By Jennifer Popik, J.D., Director of Federal Legislation
Editor’s note. Pro-life Sen. Cindy Hyde–Smith (R-Miss.) was appointed to fill out the term of pro-life Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned for health reasons. She will compete against pro-abortion Democrat Mike Espy November 27 in a run-off. Under Mississippi law if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters go head to head.
In the short time since her appointment to the U.S. Senate in April 2018, Cindy Hyde-Smith has demonstrated a strong pro-life record.
- voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 6th, 2018 (see more here);
- voted for the Rand Paul Amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s abortion giant, on August 23, 2018 (see more below);
- signed onto a letter urging the Administration to issue new prolife regulation surrounding the Title X family planning program (see more on the issue here) and;
- signed onto a letter urging the Adminstration to reverse Obama-era poilcy by requiring separate billing and payment for abortion coverage in Obamacare exchange plans (see more on the issue here).
Background on Defunding Abortion Giant Planned Parenthood
On August 23, 2018, during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations minibus (H.R. 6157), herein “the minibus” covering various federal programs, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) offered an amendment to cut off certain federal funds to organizations that provide elective abortions. The amendment would have blocked funding from Medicaid, CHIP, and various block grant programs, during Fiscal Year 2019, to abortion-providing organizations such as Planned Parenthood (which is the nation’s largest abortion provider). National Right to Life supported and Sen. Hyde-Smith voted for the Paul Amendment, which failed.
The minibus (H.R. 6157) was signed into law several days later on August 28, 2018. The package includes two critically important funding bills – Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) – which make up over half of the total discretionary budget. The bill also contains a continuing resolution through December 7, 2018, for any remaining appropriations measures.
While the minibus did not include new pro-life measures, it did retain all previously enacted pro-life limitation riders, such as the Hyde amendment, the D.C. Hyde (Dornan) amendment, the Helms amendment and others.
The enactment of the minibus provoked a renewed public debate about the continued receipt of federal funds by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Some of the material published about this subject incorporates misunderstandings both about the nature of the problem, and about how it can be corrected.
Neither the recent minibus nor any other federal spending bills includes any “line item” designating money for Planned Parenthood. There is no earmark, “set aside,” or explicit authorization for Planned Parenthood in any federal funding bill.
What occurs, however, is that Planned Parenthood affiliates are able to tap into funds from various longstanding health programs – programs that also fund many other entities. The greatest amount of federal money to Planned Parenthood flows through so-called “mandatory spending” programs, mostly Medicaid, which is a huge program created by federal law, in which states collaborate. At least 70%, and by some estimates 90%, of PPFA’s aggregate federal funding comes from those sources, with something on the order of $350 million/year coming through Medicaid.
Rather, in order to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a NEW LAW must be enacted to specifically block funding, either for Planned Parenthood by name, or for abortion providers however described. To pass such a law as part of a funding bill will require 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, but at the moment there are short of 50 votes for such a new law.
To achieve enactment of legislation to block federal funding of Planned Parenthood or achieve other major pro-life gains, we need to see the election of at least several additional reliably pro-life senators and elect a pro-life House of Representatives.