Democrats’ spending package threatens to roll back hard-won pro-life provisions

By Jennifer Popik, J.D. Director of Federal Legislation

This week, the House of Representatives will begin debating H.R. 2740 which covers various spending programs for the fiscal year 2020. Despite a statement today from the Trump Administration to veto the legislation over several issues including pro-life concerns, the House, under pro-abortion Democrat leadership, is moving forwards with a large spending package that threatens to roll back several hard-won provisions. The President’s veto threat can be read here.

The first offending provision relates to the conscience rights of healthcare providers. H.R. 2740 would block implementation and enforcement of the recent Administration Rule, ‘‘Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care’’ issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That rule would enforce approximately 25 existing long-standing statutory civil rights that protect health care providers from suffering discrimination if they do not want to participate in abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.

The second offensive provision relates to the Protect Life Rule and Title X.  H.R. 2740 would block the Administration’s final Title X rule related to prolife changes to the Title X Family Planning Program. H.R. 2740 would require the Title X program to be carried out in the way it was in 2017, under the Obama Administration. 

Under the current rule, the Administration directs that abortion facilities may not be in the same location as where family planning services are delivered.  The rule also states that Title X grantees may not refer for elective abortion. The current rule does not cut one dime of funding for family planning, but merely ensures that funding goes to health facilities that do not perform or promote abortion as family planning. 

Under the Obama Administration, the Title X consistently funded family planning through organizations that promoted and provided abortions.

The final major anti-life provisions relates to the Mexico City Policy.  H.R. 2740 contains language that would effectively overturn the current pro-life Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance program (which expanded and enhanced the Mexico City Policy). And worse, it would create a statutory prohibition against a future Administration ever issuing a prolife Mexico City Policy.

This vital pro-life policy was originally adopted by President Reagan and announced at a 1984 population conference in Mexico City.  The policy was reinstated by President’s Bush in 2001, and restored and expanded under President Trump in 2017. 

Under the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance program, in order to be eligible for U.S. “population assistance, a private organization must sign a contract promising not to perform abortions (except to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest), lobby to change the abortion laws of host countries, or otherwise “actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.

The most important characteristic of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy is that it establishes an eligibility criterion for U.S. funding.  If a group is unwilling to agree to avoid promotion of abortion, that group will not receive any type of U.S. support. 

In short, the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy is not about how an organization keeps its books.  Rather, it is about the type of groups the United States is going to support.  If a specific organization declines to accept the limitations contained in the policy, then the same funds are channeled to other organizations that do agree to the contract.  To reiterate, there is no overall reduction in funding for family planning programs resulting from the Policy.

House Members are expected to offer amendments to strike these anti-life provisions, but in the Democrat-controlled House determined to expand abortion, the amendments are unlikely to succeed.  With the threat of a veto from President Trump, and a Senate unlikely to allow these provisions, chances are  this legislation will not be the final product signed into law.